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Why Should We Care? Navigating the Crossroads between Education and Politics

In today’s rapidly evolving global and polarised landscape, the nexus of education and politics has emerged as a critical area of focus. Here, our society’s future trajectory is actively shaped, and it is incumbent upon students, educators and every stakeholder invested in our collective progress to recognise and engage in the dialogue. Education shapes our values, policies, and opportunities while influencing political awareness and participation. The present moment represents an exciting juncture to be invested in this intersection of education and politics, providing an unparalleled opportunity to shape our future for the better. 

Education’s Influence on Political Engagement and Societal Progress

Political science and sociology have extensively studied the relationship between education and politics. A well-established phenomenon in this area is that individuals with higher levels of schooling exhibit greater political awareness, involvement, and a heightened ability to form political opinions and ideologies. Increased political awareness and participation can result in higher levels of civic engagement, improved public policies, and a more just and equitable society. 

Education also played a pivotal role in several social and political movements. For instance, the civil rights movement in the United States, the 1976 Soweto Uprising, the Youth at COP28 and the National Union of Students Brexit campaign shared a common denominator: education to advocate for a better society. The youth involved in these movements used their education to advance their cause and promote a more equitable society.

Educational policies are a reflection of a society’s values and priorities. They dictate what is taught, how it is taught, and to whom it is accessible. The debates surrounding curricula, such as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s implementation of the “Advanced British Standard” in the UK, go beyond educational standards. They reflect more significant societal perspectives on what knowledge is valuable and how it has evolved, particularly in light of the UK’s interaction with the global landscape. The Advanced British Standard (ABS) is a new Baccalaureate-style qualification framework for 16-19-year-olds. In summary, the ABS will emphasise real-world situations, boosting students’ practical skills with an emphasis on T levels and providing clear courses and subjects overall. In this way, the ABS is an opportunity to bridge the gap between academic and technical skills and ultimately create a more educated workforce. 

Influence on Future Opportunities

For young people, educational policies shape their pathways into adulthood. Decisions about student loans, vocational training, and apprenticeships have long-term consequences for their careers and personal development. For example, the ESFA’s initiative to revamp vocational education in the UK signifies a shift towards equipping students with practical, job-ready skills.  It is also a pivotal step in redefining educational priorities to better align with the evolving demands of the modern workforce. This shift acknowledges that traditional academic paths are not the only route to successful and fulfilling careers. By focusing on vocational training and apprenticeships, the initiative recognises young people’s diverse talents and aspirations, fostering an environment where practical skills are valued alongside academic achievements.

These policy changes reflect a more profound understanding that education should be adaptable, inclusive, and aligned with the future. Young people with both knowledge and practical skills can become catalysts for social change, using their abilities to innovate, solve problems, and make impactful decisions. It’s a recognition that education, in its most effective form, is about imparting knowledge, shaping and mentoring capable, adaptable, and socially responsible individuals. 

The Role of Media in Education Discourse

The media’s role in education discourse is pivotal, as it shapes public opinion and political action through its reporting and discussion of educational issues. Journalism, a profession subject to intense scrutiny, reflects diverse interpretations of news influenced by different people’s perspectives. For example, contrasting headlines on climate change from BBC and Daily Mail – “Climate Change: London is underprepared for extreme weather” and “Reasons to be cheerful about climate change” respectively – highlight this point. These differing presentations underscore the need to evaluate information sources and seek balanced perspectives critically. In journalism, this nuanced approach is essential for understanding the multifaceted nature of education and other vital issues and for fostering a well-informed public discourse.

In recent years, social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram have gained immense popularity among people of all ages. However, these platforms have also become breeding grounds for propaganda and indoctrination, leading to severe consequences for those who rely on them for news and information. The ease of access to these platforms has made them popular for spreading misleading or false information, which can harm people’s perceptions and beliefs from political propaganda to pseudo-scientific claims, such content can be seen everywhere on social media, creating confusion and distrust among people. Users need to recognise the potential hazards of social media and verify the information they come across on these platforms. Despite the risks, social media can still be a valuable tool for people to gain knowledge, particularly for young people. It helps them develop critical thinking skills by encouraging reasoning and ethical decision-making when obtaining information. 

Why Your Engagement Matters

To navigate the intersection of education and politics, we need to understand that these are not abstract concepts but real issues that impact our daily lives. Engaging in this field means staying informed, questioning policies and their implications, and participating in constructive local, national, and international dialogues. From community-based organisations to student unions to international organisations like the UN, your involvement is essential. Vee Kativhu, founder of Empowered By Vee, is a perfect example of this. Her organisation aims to make higher education more accessible to unsupported or underrepresented students globally; she also spreads her influence as a young leader of the SDGs at the UN.

Your engagement matters because education shapes not just individuals but societies. Informed and active participation in the political process, especially in areas impacting education, contributes to creating a more equitable and effective educational system.

So, why should you care? Because the crossroads between education and politics is where the future is shaped. It’s where individual potential is nurtured or neglected, societies find their direction, and each of us has a role. Whether you’re a student, educator, parent, or invested citizen, your voice and actions in this arena can make a difference.

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