September 2014        

A stark class divide

A recent report from the Higher Education Authority reveals a stark class divide in Dublin when it comes to access to higher education. The report confirms what all socialists already knew: that teenagers from the leafy middle-class suburbs are far more likely to go on to third-level education than those from less privileged areas of the city.
     Teenagers from the wealthy Dublin 6 area have the greatest opportunities, as 99 per cent progress to higher education. This is in sharp contrast with Dublin 17 and Dublin 10, where only 15 and 16 per cent,respectively, progress to third level. The situation is replicated in rural areas, as the children of big farmers, landlords and business-owners are far more likely to progress to third level than the rural poor.
     The establishment like to tell us that equality of opportunity exists for all; they claim that anyone who is prepared to work hard can rise to the top of society. However, this report shows that the education system is rigged to benefit the rich. Elitist fee-paying schools, like Gonzaga College in Dublin 6, are where the elite send their children. The great majority of parents will never be able to afford to send their children to such schools; yet these fee-paying schools, outrageously, are subsidised with public money to the tune of €100 million every year.
     Eoghan Murphy TD of Fine Gael (who lives in Dublin 6) is a fierce proponent of cuts to public services and wages, yet he hypocritically defends this huge subsidy to Ireland’s elite schools. Meanwhile many children in poorer areas of Dublin are barely able to read or do basic arithmetic by the time they leave primary school. Negative home environments are an important factor in causing children from lower-income areas to be left behind. If this Government were really interested in equality of opportunity for all children they would stop the subsidy of €100 million to elitist schools and instead invest that money in pre-primary and primary education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
     The Labour Party makes a hullabaloo about the abolition of third-level fees in the 1990s. But the fact that the proportion of students from lower-income backgrounds barely increased means that the removal of fees became just another subsidy for the wealthy. The most prestigious and well-funded courses, such as medicine, remain dominated by students from wealthy backgrounds who attended fee-paying schools.
     The HEA report proves that the education system is designed by the elite for the benefit of the elite. The establishment are not interested in creating equality of opportunity for all: they only want to preserve their own privilege.

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