Get a group of people to discuss public spending and you can guarantee that within a few minutes a debate will ensue about how and where tax payers’ money should be prioritised. One conclusion that can be drawn is that the government cannot please everybody.
My opinion? I think education should be at the top of the priority list. But make no mistake; simply throwing more money at our education system will not solve anything. Our education spending should not only be designed to improve educational attainment and outcomes, but should also recognise its role in addressing economic and social needs.
Many would argue that crime requires more investment. Statistics demonstrate that those going through the criminal justice system tend to have lower and/or fewer qualifications, which suggests that low educational attainment is linked to the likelihood of an individual engaging in criminality.
A criticism often levied at our education system is that it is tailored to suit just those who are ‘academic’, therefore marginalising those who do not fit this category. Money must be spent in ensuring an education system whereby all of those who are willing to work hard can prosper. If more young people leave the education system with skills/learning that helps them to engage more effectively with society, it should follow that crime will be reduced.
Health is also an area often at the top of people’s spending priority lists. I would argue that spending in education can also positively impact upon health. Ever been to A&E on a Saturday night? It’s full of injuries that could have been prevented had there been better holistic education. Indeed, educating people on the effects of binge drinking, smoking, substance misuse and sexual health would go a long way in addressing a number of the preventable conditions often presented to our NHS. If issues to do with health can properly be incorporated in to our education system, not only will positive outcomes be seen in our children, but their awareness of health issues will no doubt permeate to their parents and families in general.
In our increasingly global world, greater investment in science and technology is becoming a big topic of discussion. I can see why, and it is important that money is invested in to this area to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of pioneering research and innovation.
Saying this, my central viewpoint is still that education must take priority. Indeed, if we can spark a passion for science and technology in young people whilst at school, I am confident that many will see the great attraction to careers in science, research and development.
An investment in better education is an investment in better tackling the root issues inherent within many of society’s problems.
President of Nottingham Trent University’s Politics Society
This article originally appeared in the Nottingham Post on March 19, 2015