I remember when I was just about finishing high school and applying for university in London, I found out about application processes and school fees. As an international student, of course I had to pay full fees. I am sure that this actually helped in securing a place, but in the meantime, I think it really kicked me into gear and into realising how important higher education is, especially if my parents were willing to part with so much money.
I was coming from Malaysia, so we have to take into account the horrendous exchange rate as well, which was made worse at that time due to an economy crisis.
There are many things to be said about this course of action. Is the Malaysian education system not good enough for us? That’s what we think, and if we had chosen a local education route, it would have been either a twinning programme with a foreign university (which would have been cheaper as you wouldn’t need to spend so much money living overseas) or trying to find a suitable local university that is 1) good, 2) will accept you (in my case, a Chinese-Malaysian – considering there are quotas of how many of us you can have in each school, chances are quite slim) and 3) will allow you to study in the area of your choice and not one that they have allocated you into.
Is it really the responsibility of parents to save so much money just to pay for your higher education? No. This is a real privilege to be had. My parents are not well off, they just have a good head for finances and savings. To them (and to most parents in Malaysia), the education of their kids are very high on the priority list. I am very grateful for what they have done and I hope that in our (with my husband) actions after graduating, we have been able to show both our parents that by being independent adults that they have done a good job in raising us.
So, coming from a country where it is the norm to look overseas for good education, what did I think about the British education system when I started working for it? It was definitely an eye opener. When I was visiting schools and was hearing teachers moan about the lack of resources and them having to deal with more than 15 kids to an adult, I think back to my school days when we had 45 in a class and just one teacher. I think that privatisation of the syllabi is great, as it promotes a healthy competition to provide the best education for the targeted audience. Even though it is privatised, it is still regulated by an official government body, which can still create new requirements to ensure that there is uniformity throughout the country (and internationally, where British syllabi are used). I could appreciate things for what they are, as I have seen the flip side in Malaysia, where the government is the autocrat when it comes to all things education.
I think that there are many positive things about the British education system. One of the most important point is outreach. The system still provides for everyone as long as they are willing to get off their butts and go to school. There is no obvious discrimination. Educators are there to educate. Most of them still want to teach to nurture the next generation. It doesn’t matter where they are. The only difference is in the way they teach as that is catered to the needs of their audience.
So what does it mean now that Brits will have to pay more for higher education? From a very general point of view, I think that it will start excluding some of the poorer communities. However, it should also help students value the education that they are receiving more than ever. I have not researched into this area enough to comment, but I think that there will have to be more scholarship opportunities moving forward, to help cushion the change.
Humans in general do not like change and I think this is just one of those things. As long as the quality and the access to the education system is not affected, then people will just need to learn to live with this change. Give it another few more years and I am sure that people will be complaining about a different perspective of the education system. Though if the quality and access to education changes, it won’t be a very pretty next few years.
Anyway, I think that too few of us take the time to appreciate all that the government, UCAS, QCDA and universities have done to help learners, locally in the UK or internationally. Education is a necessity and is still being provided for by the government in the UK, alongside health and social welfare. The system IS archaic, just look at its history. The government has been providing for its nation for a long time. That is also why it requires change.
Everyone is of course entitled to his/her opinion and it is important for all the authorities to take into account these opinions. However, at the end of the day, it is important for all to remember that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Thanks Spock.