It is well known that education is the key to success, and that every individual has a right to proper education. This means that since education is a right for all the American citizens, the government is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all its citizens get the basics of education that is compulsory up to a given age. The idea is to equip the citizens so that they can handle the responsibilities ahead of them, and also be set to deal with the competitive status of the modern life. However, there are various developments in the world, accelerated by globalization and technological development. The effects have been felt across all the sectors, including the education sector. The interface between neo-liberalism and education is as indicated in the essay below.
In order to address this issue effectively, it is important to first look at the meaning of neoliberalism and how it interacts with education. According to Socialistalternative.org, neo-liberalism is the development that came up in the global scene which gave the people the liberty to pursue their ambitions to their level best (1). This is the idea that led to the coming up of capitalism, where everyone has the right and the permission to do whatever they need to do, as long as it is legally and socially acceptable, to make sure that they fulfill their ambitions. It affected the business scene and saw the rise of entrepreneurs. Eventually, it caught up with the educational sector.
There are many negative effects of neo-liberalism that are felt within the educational sector. Chief among these problems is the closure of public schools (Alssen and Peters 315). The reason as to why such a scenario is witnessed is because as the entrepreneurs kicked in, they set up private schools. This was not just a matter of coming up with private schools, but was the bigger picture in which the privatization of businesses and corporations were on the rise. With the subsequent privatization of public schools, it became apparent that the level of education in the private institutions was higher. As such many people, that is the rich as well as those who felt that they needed better education for their children as well as themselves, shifted from public schools to the private institutions. The result was obvious; the enrollment in the public institutions went down, and the level of education in the institutions went down.
The other issue is that neo-liberalism degraded the kind of education that was offered in the public institutions. On this issue, Olssen and Peters observe that the governments as well as the investors needed minds that had been trained with skills and knowledge that could make them fulfill the need of the companies (330). This means that the schools changed from the institutions that gave general knowledge and understanding to the students and started focusing on grades. This meant that the level of education ion the institutions went down. This is because the students were drilled for grades and good points that could propel them to higher grades, and eventually, to the corporate world. In essence, this led to the lowering of the quality of education offered in the public institutions.
The issue of funding also came along with the neo-liberalism, as explained by Lipman (1). He notes that the government as well as the legislators understands the need for good education. However, it so happens that the public funds are not enough to cater for the level of education that is needed to match with the requirements of neo-liberalism. The government has tried to make sure that the issue of financing is well taken care of, especially through the distribution of funds. The Obama administration has also made efforts to ensure that it provides the best possible education to the citizens of the country. However, there is a form of confusion that emerges at one point or another.
It is indicated that there are the private schools as well as chartered institutions. The main challenge is centered on the chartered institutions which are maintained with the public funds but managed privately. It means that they are well equipped to compete with the private institutions. How, then, are the public institutions expected to cope with this challenge? All that happens is that they fail to match up to the competition, and in the long run, they are closed down. This implies that neo-liberalism has dealt a major blow on the public education system.
Olssen and Peters also observe that higher education is seen as the driver for the economy, with the belief that a growing economy needs an equally growing form of education. Well, this implies that the public institutions have to step up their ability to produce brains that match the demands of the economy. Though this is a good prospect, it is quite unfortunate that the private institutions are at times not given the inspiration to propel them to reach the expected heights.
One of the major disadvantages of the neo-liberalism is that it introduced racialism into the educational sector (Lipman, para 10). It is well known that the cost of education in the private institutions is very high. As such, the poor and those with no proper resources cannot afford to pay the fees for their children. It so happens that most of these people who have to rely on public education systems are the poor, who are mostly of the minority groups. As such, most of the students in these institutions are from the African-America, Hispanic and the Native American communities. These are people who have accepted their fate and cannot afford the luxury of what the private and chartered institutions can offer. All they have to do is be content with whatever the government offers. This is where the next challenge comes in. most of the people in the government do not seem to have the concerns of the poor. As such, the perception of the public institutions goes really low. On the other hand, the Caucasians and other well to do members of the society can afford the higher costing education. They can take their children, at the least, to the privately owned or the chartered institutions. This means that the rich and the well to do shun the public education. The government is concerned but does not seem to be making a real impact on the issue. As such, the level of education in the public institutions continues deteriorating day after day. The schools are looked down upon and even seen as schools for the hopeless. This comes all thanks to neo-liberalism which encourages competition. In short, neo-liberalism brought about the issue of survival for the fittest. Public schools tend to be seen as not fit enough to compete in the global arena.
In as much as there are many disadvantages associated with neo-liberalism, it cannot be denied that there are benefits as well. One of the factors is that there is the issue of competition. It is commonly known that people tend to unleash their full potential when they are put under pressure or when they feel that to get and remain at the top takes much personal effort. Due to this understanding, the competition was introduced to the public schools. The students, in a bid to prove that they are competitive enough, have managed to come up with ideas and innovations that have helped the nations to make major economic strides. As noted by Olssen and Peters, “Universities are seen as a key driver in the knowledge economy” (325). This implies that the higher learning institutions have to give their students the power and the liberty to achieve the best they can. Well, public institutions have not been left behind in this issue.
Another benefit is that the neo-liberalism encourages specialization. This is where professionals are trained so that they can fit into a particular field. As such, individuals highly qualified in a given area. They have high qualifications and skills that can enable them move an organization to higher levels of success. All that has to be done is to make sure that the efforts are concentrated on the right cause. Neo-liberalism has managed to make this a success, the people can be trained to fit different sections rather than have a general knowledge. When these specialized individuals are brought together, they can come up with something that is solid and can see to the success of the organization.
In conclusion, the essay above has looked at the issue of neo-liberalism and the impact that it has had on the public educational sector. Through the account, it has emerged that there are serious disadvantages that are associated with neo-liberalism. Chief among them is that it has led to the closure of public institutions as more people opt for the private institutions which are known to be of better quality. Another disadvantage is that it has led to the emergence of racialism where the institutions are taken with a low regard as institutions for the poor and the have-nots in the society. This has given the public schools a very poor image. Nevertheless, it has also been identified that there are advantages associated with neo-liberalism. It so happens that it encourages innovations and talent discovery, and also encourages specialization and division of labor. These come along as a requirement in the globalized world. It only holds that the learning institutions have to align themselves to the globalization requirements. In as much as it might not be all that easy for the public institutions, they have to match up to the challenge. This essay is of the opinion that there is always the positive and the negative effects of everything. As such, the public institutions should position themselves in such a manner that they can take the advantage of neo-liberalism and steer away from the disadvantages.
Lipman, P. Neoliberal Education Restructuring. Monthly Review, 63.3. 2011. Web, 25th June 2012, http://monthlyreview.org/2011/07/01/neoliberal-education-restructuring
Olssen, Mark & Peters, Michael, A. Neo-liberalism, Higher Education and the Knowledge Economy: From the Free Market to Knowledge Capitalism. Journal of Education Policy, 2006. 20.3: 313-345.
Socialistalternative.org. Neo-Liberalism and the Attack on Public Education Internationally. Socialist Alternative, 2012. Web, 25th June 2012, http://www.socialistalternative.org/publications/education/ch6.html