Yesterday, a group of us here at the Centre for Globalisation, Education & Social Futures travelled to London to attend this year’s Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture delivered by Professor Susan Robertson.
The lecture “Long Division: When private interests into public education simply do not go!” was held in the beautiful surroundings of the House of Commons and attracted a large crowd of education and political activists, academics, teachers and many others interested in questions of education, social justice and democracy.
In her paper, Susan drew on evidence from a range of contexts and countries to explore why it is that education is not making the contribution that we would hope for towards more equal and democratic societies worldwide.
She argued that the project of making more equal societies through democratising education – which Caroline Benn herself actively campaigned for – is not only not even ‘half-way there’ (referring to Benn’s 1970 Report on the British Comprehensive School Reform), but that new widening and lengthening divisions are being created, exploited and exported. Susan considered three ways in which this is occurring in education: (1) the deepening involvement of profit-making firms in education provision; (2) the promotion of private interests in national and global education policy-making spaces; and (3) the enclosure of political space that limits public scrutiny and accountability.
The lecture was followed by several rounds of thought-provoking questions from the audience around the role of social class and economic policy in these processes and what consciousness raising mechanisms we should seek to reduce the growing inequality in wealth distribution and education outcomes both in the UK and globally.
Full text of the lecture is available here