We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Corbyn is wrong to state that education is not about personal advancement

November 4, 2017 3:08 PM
By Thomas Moule in Liberal Democrat Voice

Jeremy Corbyn (By YouTube/exadverso [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)Governments should empower individuals to lead fulfilling lives. This principle is a cornerstone of liberal ideology and nowhere is it more important than in education policy.

Whilst in government, The Liberal Democrats empowered disadvantaged pupils by providing schools with extra money to give these individuals the same life chances as their more advantaged peers. We empowered skilled young people by expanding apprenticeships- a move which recognised the rich diversity of talent and ambition we have in our society. Our policies for empowering individuals through education continue to be one of our greatest strengths. But not everyone agrees that the purpose of education is to empower people.

In a recent article for Labour List Jeremy Corbyn asserted his view that "Education is not about personal advancement but is a collective good that benefits our society and our economy." Most progressives would agree that a major objective of education is to benefit our society and our economy, however, to claim outright that education is not about personal advancement is a bold move. If he had said that education is not just (or not primarily) about personal advancement, there would be no issue. But that's not what he said. His words unambiguously demonstrate that he has no ideological commitment to helping individuals improve and advance their own lives and reach their own aspirations through education. The Liberal Democrats by contrast are committed to this. We have no issue with both helping individuals advance their own lives and improving our society and our economy at the same time.

We understand that gaps in attainment start at a young age and that those who get left behind have reduced life chances. That is why The Liberal Democrats want to increase the Early Years Pupil Premium and raise the quality of early years provision by recruiting more qualified Early Years teachers. This policy has the potential to improve productivity in our economy. But, even if the benefits were not felt by society and the economy as a whole, the policy would be fantastically progressive because it would empower poorer pupils and help give them the same chances in life as others in society.

Our policy to improve the quality of vocational education, careers advice and skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment will certainly help society and the economy. The Office for National Statistics have found that the number of self-employed people rose by over 20% between 2008 and 2015, and that this upward trend is continuing. We need people to have the skills to start successful businesses and create wealth and jobs in our economy. But we also want to ensure that individuals gains these skills in school so that they can lead their own fulfilling lives.

Corbyn is wrong to state that education is not about personal advancement. The primary goal of education should be to empower individuals to lead fulfilling lives. As liberals, we understand this. We also understand that society and the economy both benefit when individuals are empowered and invested in.

* Thomas Moule is a Liberal Democrat member in Hackney who writes an education policy blog.