On The Grammar Schools Debate

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On Monday, Teresa May will present the plan for new Grammar Schools in the UK. This has been one of the hottest topics in the political debate in the country during the past few days. And the debate is largely about social mobility, “winners” vs. “losers”…

The main argument of anti-grammar camp can be paraphrased as: “Selective schools, by definition, select the best and leave out disadvantaged children; thus,  hinder social mobility and boost inequality.” I disagree.

Free grammar schools would actually give the opportunity of a top quality education to talented and hard working children from disadvantaged families. Today many of them have no chance! Talent and achievement comes out of effort and determination – whether of parents or of a child. This is true in sports, in business and in education. Resolute rich can always send their children to an independent school. A family, leaving on an average wage can’t… A child from that family is often destined to attend a comprehensive school today, mixing with not so hard working and (even more important) less motivated pupils, who invariably drag the overall standard down. This is simply not fair on such a child.

The current system of mediocre comprehensive schools and astronomically expensive independent schools breeds inequality.
Free grammar schools is essentially a crusade on inequality.

Competition and selection is simply part of life and we should prepare our children to compete rather than encourage shying away form competition. Good universities have fewer seats than applicants, good jobs tend to have many applicants too. Look at the Nature. There are only so many trees that can grow on an acre. Only one spermatozoon fertilizes an egg. Humans enjoy modern high-yield and delicious crops thanks to selection. In human society we tend to like having choice and an opportunity to select, for example, when we shop… The point is – selection is not bad. In fact, it tends to produce superior results. It is an engine of evolution and progress. Selection is part of life and for a reason – it is actually good.

Selective process does not have to be brutal once-in-a-lifetime chance.  Grammar schools should not be closed to children, which failed at 11. There should be another window of opportunity at 14. Tenacious, resolute, hard working children, who fail at 11 would be able to embrace the feedback and keep working in earnest to improve their weak areas, building on strengths. A second chance would be a great motivator. This alone would boost the education level in comprehensive senior schools. It works in other nations.

So, free selective education indeed is a social mobility vehicle – it gives a chance to children from disadvantaged families. It fosters competition, which pushes overall results and standard up. It prepares children for the real world.

Finally, selective education can (and probably should) be modernized to be more inclusive… and for that to happen we need more grammar schools. Having fewer contenders per seat would make getting into a grammar school less stressful and more feasible. The supply should get ahead of demand so that more pupils can get in.

More Grammar Schools please!

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