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Heaps of frustrated hopes

Published: 
Sunday, February 25, 2018

The youth who hoped for a foothold in the land of the future—a new frontier inside the knowledge society—lament that prestigious institutions that grant privilege are distancing themselves from the heaps of frustrated hopes which they once kindled and inflamed. The hope of the young in East Berlin, East London, East Port-of-Spain and Eastern Europe that the knowledge society would be a basis for personal and national prosperity is not mirrored in the new geography of wealth and poverty. The unification of humanity thus far, has consisted in everyone having nowhere to escape.

The London Boroughs of Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets have consistently been ranked as having some of the highest levels of deprivation in the UK, according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD)—a complexity not unlike the Harp in East Port-of-Spain. Loving parents invest in the futures of their children with the hope to find a place amongst the elite. In the end, their parental ambitions are painfully wounded as institutions turn away from their imputed or claimed role as promoters of mobility.

The labour market for those in possession of higher education credentials is shrinking faster than the market for those who do not have any at all to enhance their prospects. It is not only those who failed to make the necessary effort and sacrifice who—’expectedly’—find the gates closed, but those who did everything they believed to be necessary for success are finding themselves—’unexpectedly’—in the identical dilemma.

The simultaneous coexistence of both categories of citizens has had tumultuous effects in societies like Egypt in 2011. But what do Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow who wrote Augie March, Ellsworth Kelly, Simone de Beauvoir who wrote Second Sex, Albert Giacometti known for his withered Walking Man sculpture, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Juliette Gréco, Miles Davis, Boris Vian, Alexander Calder, Samuel Beckett who wrote Waiting for Godot, James Baldwin who wrote Giovanni’s Room, Janet Flanner, Arthur Koestler, Richard Wright who wrote Native Son, and Irwin Shaw, have in common? They were all young together, in Paris.

Their lives collided to extraordinary effect between 1940 and 1950. They lived, loved, fought, played and flourished in Paris during the most trying, significant and ultimately triumphant time and their intellectual and artistic output still influences how we think and live. What we glean from this is that difference is lasting, and in our interwoven world whatever we do in the streets, inside schools and in public spaces is important for the future of the place we live in as well as the future of the whole world.

An education system can never be at rest. It has to be continuously appraised and revisited, since it is both the foundation and the catalyst for development. Poland is now regularly among the top ten countries in the PISA ranking. Over the last decade, Poland experienced a rise in the sheer number of higher education institutions and in their students and graduates but also the accompanying spiralling costs of education provision. In the third quarter of 2017 Poland’s GDP growth rate reached 4.9 per cent. Exports increased by 7.7 per cent, unemployment fell to 4.6 per cent. By the end of November 2017, Poland created 250,000 new jobs, a third of which were in export-oriented industrial businesses. The Fitch rating agency has given Poland an A- rating for 2018. However, the World Bank flagged higher inequality as income levels in Poland converge with those of advanced countries. To further its restructuring Poland intends to debunk its middle school system designed for 12 to 15 year olds. Caribbean schooling is in despairing need of rebranding to allow for the regional collision of young minds, review of recruitment in the war for talent and a curriculum rewrite to prepare graduates for an intangible economy in which firms like Uber simply export code across the globe and physical assets of others like Microsoft account for just one per cent of its market value.

Unlike Poland, education reform in the UK prepares its youth for an economy that invests more in design, research, platforms and branding making Britain an intangibly rich economy.

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