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To what extent have the changes in education in the last two decades represented a decline in a democratic consensus and the rise of a post welfare society? Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

A post - welfare society is identified as the one in which 'work ethic and competition in education and the labour market dominate. It is the society in which there is a restructuring or removal of welfare benefits on the grounds that excessive welfare provision leads to economic inefficiency' (Tomlinson, 2001). In a post welfare society, as Tomlinson says, people are expected to learn to compete in education as well as in the job market to improve both their as well as the country's economy. If one observes the changes that have been brought in education in the last two decades in Britain, it is clearly evident that it was heading towards a post welfare society and in the process has been moving away from democratic consensus.

In the post war era, education in fact, was realised to be the need for all irrespective of classes and thus attempts began in educating the masses. The Education Act of 1944 had emerged out of democratic consensus between the government, church and the education service that resulted in separating primary and secondary education and secondary education was made compulsory up to 15. But the subsequent governments were overwhelmed by the need for economic restructuring which required more workforces at younger age and thus the social class remained the main stratifying unit even in education. The middle and higher class children had grammar schools and private schools and they would pursue higher education and get in to powerful professions while the children of the working class had community schools and with less intricate curriculum would get absorbed in to the work force. Thus the streaming of children apparently on the lines of intelligence and aptitude, actually worked to facilitate social selection and thus the decline in democratic consensus began in 1950s.  In the post welfare society, education was over taken by the economic logic. Though the governments from 1970s on wards recognised the importance of education for social, cultural and personal reasons, it was more driven by the forces of market economy. As Tomlinson (ibid) says, Thatcher government in1980s turned education in to a quasi market, in which choice and competition were encouraged in order to make the consumers select schools and courses that have better prospects in terms of jobs. But this has actually resulted in polarizing the school system by social class. As Brown and Lauder (1996) say, 'market reforms in education left a large majority of the working population without the human resources to flourish in the global economy'.

Education in the market led post welfare society of both developed and developing countries had the same status in terms of inequitable distribution of the educational benefits. By 1990s, as Reich (as quoted in Tomlinson) points out, those who were leading the professional and managerial positions in both developed and developing nations, were those private schooled. Another major fallacy of educational reform in the twentieth century as recognised by Tomlinson was the de-professionalization of teachers, as they were brought under the central control and direction. Teachers, who earlier had the professionalism with an ideal of service and a degree of control over their practice, had been reduced to 'semi professionals' or mere technicians executing a centrally circulated curriculum, policed by inspectorate and criticised by politicians.

Education thus made subservient to market forces by the end of the twentieth century had been forgotten to have any purpose other than that of contributing to economy and as a result schools have no longer remained to be independent, creative and democratising institutions. The critiques of the education system that is made subservient to economic forces, on the other hand, reiterate that education should be a humanizing, liberalizing and democratising force.

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