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Year 2001 No. 107, June 22, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

"Excellence and Diversity" Is Another Name for Elitism and Inequality

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

"Excellence and Diversity" Is Another Name for Elitism and Inequality

Big Increase in NHS Complaints

EU Regulations Set to Increase Cost of PFI

Britain Must End Its Neo-Colonial Relationship with South Africa

The World in Brief

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"Excellence and Diversity" Is Another Name for Elitism and Inequality

Education and Skills Secretary Estelle Morris announced a "new wave of Beacon and Specialist Schools" across England yesterday, June 21.

Speaking at St Paul’s Way Community School, a visual arts Specialist School in Tower Hamlets, east London, the Education Secretary named 425 new Beacon Schools, taking the total number of Beacon Schools to 1,000. She also announced 79 new Specialist Schools, taking the total number of Specialist Schools to 684.

The Beacon School initiative was launched in September 1998 with the designation of 75 pilot Beacon Schools. They are supposed to represent the "best performing" schools in the country and be brought to the attention of the rest of the education service as examples of "successful practice".

The Specialist Schools programme began with Technology Colleges in 1994; Language Colleges were added in 1995 and Arts and Sports in 1997. They have four-year development plans with "measurable targets" in teaching and learning in the specialist subject area. They are also expected to involve other schools and the "wider community". The Department of Education is also intending to introduce the three new specialisms of Business and Enterprise, Science and Engineering.

In the name of raising overall standards of pupil performance and closing the gap between the best and worst performing schools by spreading "best practice" across the secondary sector, the government is tailoring education more closely to the needs of the economy at this time. The direction of this economy is that businesses must be made successful by competing for maximum profits in the global marketplace. An "entrepreneurial culture" is to be disseminated throughout the secondary education sector. Secondary schools must develop their own "mission and ethos" and share "best practice" to this end.

Once this direction for the economy is taken as a given, the arrangements that the government is putting in place in schools follow in its wake. That these arrangements are being dressed up in with the language of "excellence" and "diversity" that no-one is supposed to be able to quarrel with is a measure of the opposition that is felt by the teaching profession and throughout society to measures that are contrary for all children to receive an all-round education as of right. Because of this opposition also, the government is retaining the shell of "comprehensive schools". However, it is emphasising the advantages of "specialist comprehensives" as compared with other comprehensives.

The crisis in the education system and educational values has reflected the crisis in society as a whole, with the economic crisis at its base. The move of the developed world towards globalisation and a new division of the world has created urgent problems for society and governments to solve. The issue facing education is not one of simply re-establishing the comprehensive system that existed prior to the introduction of the neo-liberal agenda which took place throughout the 1980s. Solving the problems in education can only be carried out in conjunction with the movement to renew society as a whole, where the claims of the people on society take priority.

The government is taking education as part of its neo-liberal agenda for society down the road of providing a meritocracy who have made good through the status quo and are bound to it, together with pupils who are trained in the skills needed for business enterprise. The elitism and inequality of the system is the outcome of this direction. Excellence and diversity can only be truly built on the basis of an educational system that sets out to prepare all pupils for participating in the running of a new society, arming them with enlightened opinions.

Article Index

Big Increase in NHS Complaints

There has been a big increase in complaints about the NHS, according to the Health Service Ombudsman. Many of the complaints involve patients who have been given the wrong treatment, and others involve patients who complain about a lack of communication from hospital staff.

Overall, says Michael Buckley, the Ombudsman, in his latest annual report, complaints have increased year on year and have more than trebled since 1990.

Of the 2,595 complaints last year, 241 were deemed to be worth investigating, and of these 69% of the grievances were upheld.

The Ombudsman drew attention to the link between the shortcomings in the delivery of healthcare and the lack of resources, although he said that the fact that the resources are limited does not automatically exonerate the body concerned from responsibility to manage care appropriately in admittedly difficult circumstances.

Article Index

EU Regulations Set to Increase Cost of PFI

Proposed revisions to EU regulations are set to push up the cost of bidding for PFI contracts, according to the Construction Confederation.

This is bound to push up the costs for the burgeoning PFI programme for schools, hospitals and transport.

The European Commission wants all bidders for PFI contracts to negotiate on the contracts until they are awarded, rather than the government selecting a preferring bidder and hammering out final details of a scheme on an exclusive basis. The Construction Confederation has pointed out that it can cost about £1 million to put in a bid up to the point where a preferred bidder is selected, but thereafter the chosen company can spend anything from £2 million to £5 million more in drawing up a detailed design.

Article Index

Britain Must End Its Neo-Colonial Relationship with South Africa

Last week the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, visited Britain at the head of a delegation that participated in the fourth UK/South Africa Bilateral Forum. Such meetings have taken place since 1997 and involve the heads of government and Cabinet ministers from both countries. The Forum concluded with a joint communiqué by Thabo Mbeki and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as well as a joint article "Building a future of prosperity for Africa", that was published in The Guardian on June 14. Although the form of the newspaper article and communiqué might suggest that they were jointly issued by two equal parties, in fact massive inequality exists in the relationship between the two countries.

The article stressed that both governments "believe that the fight against poverty in Africa is the most pressing moral challenge of our time". But for the British government Africa continues to be very much "a continent of opportunity" to be further impoverished by the exploitation of its natural and human resources. Britain’s relationship with South Africa today is itself an example of such exploitation, just as it was in the past a major factor leading to the impoverishment of its people and the expropriation of the country’s mineral and other resources.

Britain is still the largest foreign investor in South Africa, with over £10 billion of investments and the infamous Lonrho, a British monopoly, is South Africa’s largest foreign employer. In recent years several initiatives have taken place to expand Britain’s trading links with South Africa and since 1994 British governments have further extended the enslaving "development aid" to that country which currently stands at £30 million per year.

In addition the British government plays a major role in providing finance and training for the South African police force and National Defence Force. As a consequence of such assistance the South African government has placed a £1 billion order for fighter aircraft and other military equipment from British Aerospace (BAe). According to a Foreign Office report, in October last year, "the South African Cabinet approved the selection of BAe Systems as the preferred strategic equity partner for Denel’s Aerospace and Ordnance Groups". Denel is the main defence parastatal in South Africa and is currently undergoing privatisation. BAe’s total bid "in associated trade and investment" in South Africa over the next decade is between £3-4 billion.

The joint article and communiqué are evidence that the British government is attempting to step up its economic domination and political interference in Africa under the guise of forging a "new partnership" with African countries. On the basis of its relationship with countries such as South Africa it is seeking to establish proxies to further its interests in the region, in so-called "peacekeeping" throughout Africa and in international forums such as the World Trade Organisation.

The diplomatically-worded statements by the leaders of the British and South Africa cannot disguise the reality of the situation in Africa, which is a direct legacy of colonial rule and the continuing exploitation and domination of the continent by Britain and the other big powers. The notion that progress in Africa "is underpinned by partnership between Africa and developed countries, and between governments and the private sector" simply turns truth on its head. Such relationships are the cause of Africa’s problems not the solution to them.

Article Index

The World in Brief

21-24 June USA/JAPAN: Japanese Defence Agency chief Gen Nakatani and US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld hold preparatory talks in Washington ahead of summit between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and US President George Bush, to discuss US missile defence plans, Japan-US security alliance as well as China and the Korean Peninsula.

21-24 June USA/SOUTH KOREA: South Korean Defence Minister Kim Dong Shin visits USA for talks with US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld, centring on North Korea, and Seoul’s participation in US missile defence plan.

21-29 June RUSSIA: Prime Michael of Kent is touring with 10 British and US journalists to "show the best traits of the Russian people and the country’s diversity to Western media representatives".

23-24 June VENEZUELA: Summit in Caracas of the Andean Community of Nations (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela), postponed from December 2000; demonstration to coincide with the summit and protest against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) to be held in Caracas on June 24.

24 June GEORGIA/UKRAINE/NATO: NATO Co-operative Partner-2001 exercise in the Black Sea, with Ukraine and Georgia among 13 countries taking part.

24 June UKRAINE: IMF mission visiting to meet new Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh and assess the economic situation.

25 June SLOVENIA: German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visits on National Day and, together with President Milan Kucan and Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, addresses ceremony marking 10th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence.

25-26 June LUXEMBOURG: EU foreign ministers meet.

25-27 June SOUTH AFRICA/USA: South African President Thabo Mbeki visits USA.

26-31 June RUSSIA: Over 1,000 CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) servicemen take part in training exercises code-named Combat Commonwealth-2001 in Astrakhan Region, to be supervised by Anatoliy Kornukov, Russian air force commander and chairman of CIS air defence co-ordination committee.

28 June MOLDOVA: Moldova becomes member of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, the first former USSR state to do so.

29 June CENTRAL ASIA/GERMANY: Servicemen from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan taking part in command-post exercises in Germany under NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme. Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine sending observers.

30 June UKRAINE: Cossack Express-2001 British-Ukrainian exercise taking place at Yavoriv training ground, involving 400 troops from the 43rd Infantry Brigade and 5th Division of the British armed forces, together with 80 soldiers from Ukraine’s 80th Airborne Regiment.

30 June – 5 July JAPAN/USA/BRITAIN/FRANCE: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and US President George Bush hold first summit at Camp David to discuss a new framework of economic relations, Japanese economic restructuring, global trade issues, Bush’s recent trip to Europe, as well as the Japan-US security alliance and the US missile defence plan. Koizumi will then travel to Europe for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac.

1 July GELGIUM: Belgium takes over the EU presidency for the next six months.

1-3 July RUSSIA: French President Jacques Chirac visits for talks with President Vladimir Putin on strategic stability, regional conflicts, the Russia-USA summit in Ljubljana and the coming G8 summit in Genoa.

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