‘Unattractive’ women get lower grades, study finds

A few days ago, I stumbled across an article by the Telegraph education section related to research carried out by Metropolitan State University of Denver (an open-enrollment institution with many non-traditional age students) that found that seemingly ‘unattractive’ women were gaining significantly lower grades in exams and coursework compared to their more physically appealing female counterparts.

However, the research also found that for male students, looks are irrelevant when it comes to grades.

Begging the age old question that most socioeconomic ask “Does being physically attractive, contributing to greater long term success in the academia?” and, “Does physical attractiveness lead to favourable treatment by teachers and classmates?”

However, before running off to the shops up to update your make-up collection, and buy a new outfit for the start of a new term,  digging deeper into the research, begs the question, should we really be looking at how those professors are investing their time and energy into their students, and how they mark academic merit?

Two economists at Metropolitan State gathered student identification photos, and recruited people who weren’t students or faculty members to rate the images, on their physical appeal rated on a scale of 1 to 10.

The researchers looked at 168,092 course grades awarded and the gradings of both male and female professors.

When the researchers divided the women into three groups — average, more attractive and less attractive — they found a very small (and not statistically significant) gain for the above average attractiveness women. But for the least attractive third of women, the average course grade was 0.067 grade points below those earned by others, a statistically significant gap.

The attractiveness gap in grades appears to result more from lower grades for less attractive women than from higher grades for the most attractive women.

But, as a scientist, the question, how can you quantitively measure attractiveness? Surely, as the saying goes “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and cannot be quantitively measured reliably. It lacks reproducibility, as different geographical locations, value different aspects of beauty.

However, the Metro State researchers are not the first to suggest an apparent link between attractiveness and academic success. The 2013 book Physical Attractiveness and the Accumulation of Social and Human Capital in Adolescence and Young Adulthood: Assets and Distractions (Wiley) found that those who are attractive in high school are more likely than those with just average or below average looks to go on to earn a four-year college degree.

The researchers then turned their attentions to Metro State’s significant online and blended learning offerings. Comparing similar groups of students, the study found that the grade difference for unattractive women disappears in online education. (Male students’ lack of an attractiveness factor on grading is the same nonfactor in person or online.) The online success of the less attractive students suggests that their lower grades in in-person classes can’t be attributed to some factor that might make them legitimately earn lower grades.

Rey Hernández-Julián, one of the economists carrying out the research, called these results, “troubling” and said there are two possible reasons why grades are correlated to physical appearance. “That professors invest more time and energy into the better-looking students, helping them learn more and earn the higher grades. Or professors simply reward the appearance with higher grades given identical performance. The likely answer, given our growing understanding of the prevalence of implicit biases, is that professors make small adjustments on both of these margins.”

He also said that “tools to address the presence of implicit racial bias in policing are becoming increasingly prevalent. Similar tools might be useful in other environments where other implicit biases are prevalent, such as colleges and universities.”

This type of recurring research, begs the question, whether this type of bias should be addressed at university level, and if there should be an overhaul of how students work in submitted to their tutors, to avoid any type of conscious and unconscious bias.

To gain fair amounts of credit, should students, submit their work online under a pseudonym, to gain grades that truly reflect their efforts and avoid lecturer bias?

As an online student, I am biased and as a student that has suffered much harassment in an educational setting for the way I look, to the point I had to leave my institute to continue my studies in a setting where my looks would not be judged, these results only prove there is an international issue with gendered bias in education.

For us to move forward into greater equality in our educational systems, this issue needs to be addressed on a national scale if we are to truly remove the barriers in education and gain a true equal workforce in all areas, in the future.

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Absence

Many of my readers may have seen that I have not been posting over the last 6 months. There are many reasons for this; however, my main reason is that last August I lost my Nan to cancer.

This was understandably a huge shock for me and my family. We had no idea that she had cancer, and was diagnosed only 2 weeks and 2 days before she passed away. Overall she was only ill for 9 weeks, which in our eyes, was a blessing, but this did not make her passing any easier on any of us.

My Nan was a huge part of my life, and was a major influence on my life and work. She was the head of my family, a strong woman, and other than my mum, was the woman who moulded me into who I am today. I would not be this fiercely strong, independent and resilient woman, if it were not for her influence on me growing up. She always encouraged me into education, pushing me further and further. When I was making any decisions about my education, she would be the one I went to first to discuss my options.

For a woman who left school at the age of 14 to work as a ‘Flow-line Fanny’ on a factory line, and look after her baby brothers and sisters, she knew a lot about education, and often let me know it! She would often tell me, when I was at school, that I had to choose between education and having a boyfriend, and that education won’t always be there, but boys always will!

A cross between Mrs Brown and Catherine Tate’s Nan, she was a diamond in the rough. She, along with my mum, fought hard when I was ill, and out of school, against the schools to get my work so I could continue my education at home, and would always help me study any way she could. Asking her about Henry the 8th, would result in her groaning and telling you about the time she helped me study History A-level and we sat up most nights for nearly two weeks as she tested me on my history knowledge.

I was lucky she was able to see me, achieve my dreams of carrying on my education, as she encouraged me to join the Open University, just before she passed, and she was able to see me win Young Adult Learner of the Year 2014 with NIACE last year, and enjoy the accolades from that. She was so proud of what I had achieved, and seeing that pride inspired me to work harder to bring her more pride.

My absence from my blog and my work, has given myself and my family time to grieve our huge loss. However, I now feel ready to continue on with my work, to carry on in her memory. She has left some big shoes to fill in this world, but she has taught me, with years of determination and fierceness how to fill them, and be bold!

Dedicated to Vera Marjorie King, the Lady, the Legend!

The Power of Adult Education

As adult learner’s week draws to a close today I am able to look back on my own experiences as an adult learner.

For me, and I suppose for many others, adult education was never something I actively considered a valid form of learning. We were all told in schools that we had to work hard, as after GCSES/A-levels that was it. We had no second chances. What we picked as options at GCSE and A-level would shape our entire lives and there was no changing your mind once you started that path. This makes every 14-18 year old feel as if they are on a hurtling train of education with no brakes until you get into the world of work.

From being an adult learner, I have seen that the path of learning is not a straight linear path, but it is in fact, a branched path, full of twists and turns and different methods of studying to get to the point of where you want to be. Some branches lead into somewhere very different from where you wanted to be, challenging all your preconceptions of studying, while some lead out onto another path, but ultimately bring you back, full circle, to the path you were originally on, on a kind of scenic route.

I am always reminded of my mother’s words when I think of education ‘there is more than one way to learn, there are many different routes, and sometimes you have to take the unconventional route to get to where you want to be,’ and that is how I viewed adult education before I started it. I used to believe that all adult education boiled down to ‘flower arranging’ and ‘basket weaving’, and I had no idea how diverse and intense it all was until I dived in head first when I left ‘conventional’ schooling at the age of 17.

I took a similar route via adult education as I would have done at a school, but I feel that being that little bit older meant I was more open to the educational experience and it helped to grow as a person. The person I was before I entered adult education was nothing like the person I was now 5 + years down the line, and I owe a lot to the support of fantastic tutors along the way.

If you would have told me, I would be a scientist, studying a chemistry degree with the possibility to lead on to a doctorate, I would have been sure you were insane, but this is where adult education has brought me to. And I feel ready for it, as I have matured along with my subject, which is an experience I wouldn’t have had being a student at a 16-18 school or college.

My adult educational journey is far from over, if it will ever end at all (which to me isn’t a bad thing), I have just become a member at one to the UK’s biggest part-time education providers, the Open University to continue to study my degree as a full-time student in October. I am extremely excited to be studying with them, as I believe they give so many students, such as myself, with other commitments and issues the chance to gain respected degrees (even if there is some element of bias by some institutions still). For a student, like myself, the flexibility of studying with them leaves me feeling like a ‘kid in a candy store’ as I am presented with a smorgasbord of courses and options to study, leaving me able to indulge my love of mathematics and physics while I also the study chemical sciences. This freedom of choice isn’t one I could have whilst studying at a red-brick university and was one of the reasons I joined the OU rather than jumping straight into another red-brick.

Now, I can understand that adult education isn’t for everyone, and that some suit going straight from school-to university-to work, but that does not suit everyone. The influence adult education has had on myself alone has been immeasurable, and has the influence to affect the lives of so many others.  Adult education has more power to change the lives of students than traditional school-based education. In adult education, education is truly power.

Britain’s Fall in Part Time Learners

As an adult learner, the ability to be able to study part-time during periods of ill health has been vital to my continuing career in the scientific field, without it, I would not be in the position I am in today. So, to hear about a 37% decline in part-time student’s numbers in UK, over the last five years, both shocked me and saddens me. The ability to study part-time was a life line, after attempting to study at university full time for two years and I was forced to leave my route of study and take a more flexible route that could fit around myself and my health.

As a part-time student, studying a natural science degree with the Open University and having also spent time studying full-time education, paying the maximum fees of £9000 per year, I am fully aware of how expensive education has become since the rise in tuition fees in 2010. And with much of the countries budgets slashed due to austerity cuts and reductions in public spending,  many firms that employ worker’s and pay for their part-time courses have found they are struggling and are unable to continue to pay to educate their workers as they had once been able to.

Adult educational budgets have also continually been cut. Since 2010, further education budgets have been cut by almost a third, and this year (2015/16) budget have been projected to be cut by another 24%, meaning many adult learners are without the means to fund themselves, and lose out on essential opportunities, causing another 190,000 learners likely to be lost.

Without these essential learners building their skill profiles, there is likely to a skill shortage and increased levels of unemployment, as previously high-level jobs that would train employees ‘on the job’, would rely on already skilled workers to come to them, and those wishing to take those jobs would be too unskilled to, and would be without a way of gaining those essential skills.  This skills shortage and increased unemployment would impact of both the economic productivity of our country, and would further affect our economic recovery from recession.

Yet, this argument is not simply about budgets and economic recoveries, adult education makes a powerful difference to people’s lives.  As David Cameron said in an interview about Adult Learning, in May 2010: “Learning isn’t just about consuming chunks of knowledge in order to be able to do a job. It’s about broadening the mind, giving people self-belief, strengthening the bonds of community,”

Future education, gives those a second chance at education that many have missed during traditional 4-19 years education or give a chance for change to those who wish to drastically change careers. It gives the literate the ability to read  it gives the innumerate the ability to count and understand basic maths problems, it inspirations the next generation of writers, painters, scientists and engineers, it inspires social change within the community and gives such a powerful sense of self-worth that no-one can ever take from you, because you hold that piece of paper in your hands that tells you, you are worth something, you have a voice to be heard, and it is one of the most powerful feelings that a learner can feel. Most importantly, it also brings hope to learners; hope that they can change their lives and their family’s lives by ‘breaking down barriers’ to education.

However, to those with families, to those who struggle with illness and health issues and those who work full-time, being able to study flexibly to improving their skills via part-time study is their only means of being able to gain such social change, and with the continuing loss of placements within FE colleges and community learning centres  and other part-time flexible higher education intuitions, such as the Open University,  those people who should have equal access to that opportunity to study, are limited both socially and economically.

To counter-act this measure, the government have proposed to expand both the number and quality of many apprenticeships schemes, including higher level apprenticeships, and though they these schemes do offer real opportunities for some people, most of the uptake of students are already qualified adults already in a positon, meaning employers did not have to pay for training of this skilled individuals.

Ultimately, the fall in part-time learners, boils down to the fact that part-time higher education means to be made a much higher priority within our educational system and needs to be brought on par with not only full-time higher education and universities, but with the whole 4-19 education in general. Colleges and community learning organisations need to be revitalised and be able to provide a vast array adult education opportunities, for a wide variety of learners of different skill sets.

Though this is an idealistic dream that seems almost impossible to achieve; given the current state of a future education system that is being steadily suppressed by cuts and ceaseless changes in policy. If we allow the situation to continue, we will face a future where many jobs will be inaccessible to a society of unskilled yet able 19+ workers, and the only second chances available to better oneself, will be accessible only to those with boundless economic means.

What the Party Leaders Have to Offer for STEM

As a science student, studying Chemistry with the Open University part-time, an important part of the general election for me, and many other scientists around the country is what a new government would mean for the continued backing and funding of the current science and engineering policies in the UK.

Science and engineering may not take centre stage in electoral policies but funding for science technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects is essential for driving the economy forward, creating jobs and combating future challenges posed by disease, disaster or demographics.

During this coming election, the party leaders will discuss the health service, immigration, education, jobs, the EU, dealing with the deficit and growing the national economy.  Majority of these issues either involve or can be solved by backing STEM, meaning it is vital that the next government continue funding significant science and engineering programmes.

Each of the political parties has outlined different forms of STEM funding for the coming five years.

Conservative

The conservatives have said that ensuring Britain has one of the most world-class sciences and engineering industries is part of their long-term economic plan. The conservatives have promised to invest £4.6 billion each year in ‘home-grown’ science and engineering infrastructure and research, as well as investing £5.9 billion to support scientific distinction, up to 2021 and £150 million to the UK‘s Innovation Investment Fund that supports technological businesses, such as digital technologies, green  technology and manufacturing sectors. The conservatives also have committed to plans to continue to reform the education system, thus producing the next generation of scientists and engineers. In this plan they aim to continue to raise the number of A-level maths and physics students by 50% and to double the number of undergraduate degrees taken by women in engineering and technology by 2030. As well as this, the conservatives have pledged to provide an extra £400 million to develop world-class facilities for many university science departments, give financial support to part-time engineering students who have previously studied for a degree, and introduce loans of up to £10,000 for young people undertaking postgraduate, Masters and PhD studies.

Labour

Labour launched its ‘Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity’ during February 2015, which outlines the long term plan of funding for science and innovation. Labour’s plan for science and engineering includes providing long term policy certainty and expertise, where the Labour party intends to build on the previous Labour Government’s 10 year funding framework, and will fund innovation, applied research as well as traditional science spending, and strengthening scientific advice at all levels of government. Labour also puts great emphasise on educating future scientists and engineers, and investing in environmental issues, such as low carbon technologies and setting a lower 2030 decarbonisation target.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have recognised how vital science and engineering skills are in the driving forward of innovation, quality of life and wellbeing, and the economic success of Britain. They have pledged to boost investments in scientific developments, by doubling spending on innovation and research. They have also pledged to continue to protect the nation’s science budget and ensuring that scientific spending increases with in inflation, Liberal Democrats have promised to encourage more young people to study STEM subjects by providing excellent STEM education in schools and universities. They have promised to do this by ensuring that all primary schools have at least one science specialist among staff, increase the number of teachers who have degree qualifications in the STEM subjects they teach at the secondary level and by continuing to support the Teach First Programme in STEM subjects. The Liberal Democrats have also promised to ensure that any new immigration rules do not prevent the entry of STEM skilled individuals from coming to or remaining in the UK, they have promised to promote the UK is an attractive destination for overseas students, wishing to study STEM subjects, and restore the post-study work visas for STEM graduates who can find graduate-level employment within six months of completing their degree.

Green Party

The Green Party a balanced scientific policy, including doubling public spending on research over the next 10 years, with a particular emphasis on environmental issues such as climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. They have promised to ensure the results of all publicly funded research, including clinical trials are made publically available, as part of the Freedom of Information Act. If elected the Green Party has promised to abolish undergraduate tuition fees, reintroduce student grants, and by opposing a cap on immigration, would also restore the post-study work visa allowing postgraduates to seek work in the UK for two years and prevent the barred entry of non-EU STEM academics and experts required by science, engineering and other businesses.

UKIP

UKIP has made an interesting pledge in advancing science and technology skills. They promise to put an end tuition fees for STEM degrees for students on the condition that they work within the UK for five years after graduating. They also want to make it compulsory for every primary school to nominate a science leader to inspire and encourage the next generation of scientists to study STEM subjects at GCSEs, A-level and university, as well addressing the gender imbalance in the scientific subjects. One of UKIP’s major policies is the removal of the UK from the European Union, following this UKIP has promised reviews into EU regulations and directives in British law, thus reviewing all and possibility changing many regulations into research and trials of many scientific and technological projects in Britain. UKIP have also promised to introduce a points based immigration system that would give priority to those seeking to enter the UK to fill the skills gaps, such a STEM skills, in the economy.

Plaid Cymru

The Welsh party Plaid Cymru has put a large emphasis on the use of science and technology in developing the Welsh economy in their electoral policies this year. They have pledged for more investment and funding for Welsh universities and higher education establishments in scientific and technological research.  Plaid Cymru, have also promised to campaign that higher education should be free for all, and have promised subsidies for Welsh students who want to study in Wales. Plaid Cymru have pledged to improve health research funding to attract high quality researchers to Wales, and to support the All Trials campaign for publication of all clinical trials to make sure clinical staff and researchers have the most comprehensive and up-to-date evidence-based information. Plaid Cymru will support embryonic and adult stem cell research in their scientific policies but are against growth of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Wales, and have pledged to introduce a Climate Change Act for Wales, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 and 2050, and place focus on renewable energy sources for energy generation.

Scottish Government’s (SNP)

The Scottish Government, like the Welsh assembly, also recognises that STEM subjects are vital to creating a more successful and productive Scotland. The Scottish Government’s enterprise agencies are committed to deliver a range of funding and support grants to assist many Scottish based technological and scientific businesses, including Scottish Innovation Centres, which are collaborations between universities, businesses and others to enhance innovation. The Scottish Government have said that “geographical boundaries should not hinder scientific advancement”, and plan to continue with local and global networks and collaborations, including supporting society and businesses to advance and apply their skills and support youth employment and education. The Scottish Government has placed several measures in place to ensure that STEM subjects are made accessible to the general public and school pupils, including funding a number of organisations, initiatives and projects that support science learning, promote science careers, showcase Scotland’s research, and make science accessible to a public audience. Additionally, the Scottish government has pledged to continue to keep Scottish University education free for Scottish students. The Scottish government have also pledged to appoint an independent Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, to help advise about scientific policies.

It is clear to see that all the political parties have taken STEM policies incredibility seriously this general election. STEM is a hot-topic and a key area of economic growth that could be utilised to aid economic recovery and it is pleasing for all scientists and engineers to see how well politicians have taken this topic to heart.

Each of the parties have put forward some largely important pledges that could make a huge differences to how scientific and technological research is carried out in the UK, and these policies  could help make the UK one of the front-leaders in STEM education and research, like the UK used to be around fifty years ago.

With less than 10 days to the general election, time will only tell of how the scientific and technological fields will change with a new government.

A Vote for Adult and Future Education

‘Education education, education’ underpinned the Labour party’s manifesto in 1997. However since then, educational policies have systematically fallen down the political agenda and most importantly for many people, like myself, aged 19+, adult educational policies have become almost none existence.

Further and Adult education has suffered many cuts since the 2010 election, with its budget was cut by almost a third, and it’s the budget for 2015/16 projected to be cut by another 24%, a whole current generation of people wishing to return to education, will not be able to due to financial reasons.

Adult and further education, is not simply the betterment of education, it reflects back on the overall health of society overall. With greater skills, individuals are able to build healthier and happier lives, with greater job prospects and outlooks, and the ability to take themselves and their family out of poverty by allow them to choices they never thought possible.

However, discussing adult education is a double-edged sword as improving the social economic aspects of society cannot be done through education alone, and other social scaffolding, such as availability of high-quality jobs, housing and other such means would need to be in place to overall improve society and bring out the welfare and gang state.

With removing the budget for adult education, we are effectively removing that olive branch that people can use to remove themselves from impoverished and unhealthy situation in their lives. By preventing people from improving their lives due to financial cuts increases people’s reliance on the state, instead of creating dynamic, able individuals are capable in the workplace, thus undermining the potential for improvements in productivity and economic growth. Removing centres for education for young people aged 19 to 25, They cannot remove themselves to an area of safety and security, where they have the means to be able to better themselves and they effectively lose their choice to remove themselves from gangland culture which is so prevalent in our country today.. This leads to mistrust within the state, and the dissolution of faith within the governmental for continued change.

Researching educational and further educational policies within each of the political parties has shown that  many political party’s manifestos have primarily focused on education up to the age of 18, with varying degrees of focus on the ‘next phase’ of learning – from 19 to 25, however above these ages choices for continuing education began to diminish.

Conservatives

Conservatives manifesto has offered a very ‘give and take’ view on further adult education. On the one hand, the Conservatives have promised to “encourage the development of online education as a tool for students, whether studying independently or in our universities” which gives many adult learners the flexibility to study part-time around their full-time work, using many of the online educational suppliers such as the Open University and MOOCs such as FutureLearn and Coursera. Conservatives having accepted that learning and skill building for all adults and young people is crucial for economic recovery, and have set out within their manifesto and number of things to support growth in this area, such as a Career Advancement Service, Personal Career Accounts, and to increase the number of apprenticeships. However, the conservatives in their ideal of increased numbers of apprenticeships have planned to replace classroom-based further education courses. This is disappointing news for those who an apprenticeship is not the most suitable way of returning to education, and by diverting adult skill funding from classroom-based to apprenticeship schemes, more adults wishing to return to education will not have the option to.

Labour

As one of the top political players, the Labour Party has made only small headway on adult and further education, which is disappointing for many adult and part-time learners. One of the biggest educational policies a Labour government is promising is a cut in full-time university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year, this idea has be fought with controversy, with some supporters fearing this ‘financially illiterate’ plan will harm the chances of working class students to be financially supported at university with a smaller university budget. Labour also promises to protect the entire educational budget to post-16 education and keep it in line with the rise of inflation, however, this suggests that previous governmental cuts to adult education will still be enforced, and with greater numbers of learners entering into the educational system, the budget per student is likely to fall. Majority of the Labour Party’s manifesto focuses on supporting the learning and employability of young people, but there has been a promise to redesign the 18-24 year old ‘phase’ of development, with better backing and options to support those to progress to higher levels of jobs and learning, which would help every young person become a lifelong learner. However, this is tarnished with the fact that this option is only offered to those between the ages of 18 to 24.  Though this manifesto seems to be filled with bad news for most adult education, some headway has been made for other learners with the promised commitment of reducing the proportion of citizens unable to use the Internet, and increased time that prisoners spend working and learning, these are the type of commitments that help many adult learners continue with lifelong learning.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have offered the best pledge to adult and further education, and plan to

“Establish a cross-party commission to secure a long-term settlement for the public funding of reskilling and lifelong learning”. One of their biggest educational pledges is providing extra £2.5 billion for education. They promise to highlight “skills training and back-to-work support to prioritise” by devolving power and resources to “groups of Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships” and reforming a Work Programme “in partnership with English local government”. Like many of the other major political players, the Liberal Democrats have also promised to increase the number and quality of apprenticeships, including expanding degree-equivalent Higher Apprenticeships. They have also promised to “Work with university ‘mission groups’ to … enable more part-time learning, and help more people to complete qualifications.”

UKIP

UKIP, this coming election has offered very little in terms of solid further and adult education. One of their more interesting pledges is the removal of tuition fees for those studying a degree within one of the STEMM subjects, this is only on the condition that they pay UK tax and take up a job within the discipline for around five years once completing their studies. Though this feels like an attempt to improve skills within a hot area of growth, it also feels as if their promises come with many hidden catches. If a UKIP majority or coalitions are voted into Parliament this May, it would be interesting to see how this situation would play out. Also, as many other parties have done this coming election, they seem to have focused their commitments mainly on the young, ignoring almost all the needs for adult skills and employment across those of the working age population. Nothing in their political manifesto highlights specifically adult education and lifelong learning.

Green Party

The Green party, have an interesting take on adult education and lifelong learning, their manifesto shows a clear commitment to lifelong learning, with the promise “reverse the 20-year programme of dismantling the lifelong learning sector and support mature students” and their proposal to “encourage local authorities to use some of the additional money given to them to restore the full range of local adult education programmes”, including calling for an extra £1.5bn a year funding for further education. However, these promising proposals are undermined by the proposal to “Reverse the trend whereby 45% of apprenticeships, that is, jobs with structured training, are now taken by people over 25.” This is somewhat disheartening, as the age of the individual undertaking an apprenticeship program should not matter, but should open to all that desire a career change, and would require structured training to achieve that goal. Another interesting proposal by the Green party, include the scrapping of tuition fees, alongside the cancellation of debt issued by the student loans Company, allowing free higher education. Unfortunately this proposal lacks detail of whether this would include masters and PhD level qualifications and how many times would you be able to benefit from a free university education, it seems an idealistic dream, given the costs associated with higher education.

Plaid Cymru and SNP

Despite having only nine seats between Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party, both political parties have made significant headway within the electoral process this year.

Plaid Cymru, have called for an extra £1.2billion a year funding for Wales education. Their party is well known for their investments in skills and learning, leading to an inevitable boost within further education and apprenticeships. One of their more interesting proposals, includes building a ‘Citizens’ Service’ focusing on giving young people the skills they need for the work place. The Plaid Cymru party have also promised not to support any further increases in tuition fees for higher education students, and the eventual removal of tuition fees when financially able.

The Scottish National Party, has not made any specific policies on further and adult education within their manifesto, they have however promised to continue to support free university education within Scotland, and promised to offer financial support in grants and loans to students. They have also made the promise to support the reduction of tuition fees across the United Kingdom.

To put it briefly, there is a general lack of understanding of how important further education and skills are for adult learners by many of the political parties, and as voters, we need to fully address this access to learning this during the next government. Basic skills courses for young and older adults need to continue to be fully funded, as well as providing choices other of flexible and accessible courses as well as supporting those with lower level skills at to engage in informal learning. Adult education offers a vital second chance of re-engaging with education to those who for whatever reason have been forced to leave conventional education. At the moment these educational choices are not available to everyone, but if we can support all learners’ right to an education, we have a great chance to give every person the route to becoming a skilled lifelong learner.

WEA Why Vote Campaign – Why Every Vote Counts

Politics is one of the most pressing of current events, but yet instead of taking keen interest in it as others do with celebrity culture or music; politics seems to have been left to the dusty recesses of the elitist culture. Politics for non-politically minded people, much like myself, can seem over-broadcasted and a giant popularity contest of who can please people the most, but with at least 6 million people unregistered to vote as estimated in 2011, countless others choosing not to vote, and election polls teetering in the balance, it has never been more important to raise your voice and make your vote count. This is what makes the WEA’s ‘Why Vote’ campaign so vitally important.

The right to vote is one of enormously powerful change, that many of our ancestors have fought for us to gain, whether as right for commoners to vote (universal suffrage) in the 1800’s or as the right for women to vote equally as men (suffragette movement) in the 1900’s. With right to vote, society becomes empowered, they can take issues and problems affecting their community and their country into their own hands.

Yet many people from all ranges of diversity and age groups feel disengaged with the democratic system within the UK. They feel as if their vote doesn’t make much of a difference to the majority, and that many feel imitated by the complicated polices and the choices of reforms on offer and feel that it is better left for those who are experts in that field and know better about the complex issues of politics.

However, by not taking an active role to politics and political issues, means that many people’s voices and views that may be similar to our own ideals and values are just not getting heard, because they are not the majority, and that only a small minority of people have access to government and reforms. Democracy is all about representing the views of the people within the governmental system, and with such a small representation of our society, change will most likely be beneficial to one to only one part of our community whilst being detrimental to others.

Those who are worse off demographically and need change, such as young people,  will be unlikely to gain it, as without their views being represented by the committee voted in to their government (locally or nationally), their views and issue are more likely to be ignored and left unaddressed.

These facts alone only go to prove how powerful the power is to vote in your hands. Only you can make the change you want to see in your community, your society and your country, Though we are far from having the ideal democratic system within the UK, by being an active rather than a passive member within it, you stand the hope of making changes from the inside.

For more issues around voting and finding out how to vote in your election 2015 please visit:

http://www.wea.org.uk/WhyVote/

Let’s be the change you’d like to see in your country.