Learning a tough lesson in meritocracy - GulfToday

Learning a tough lesson in meritocracy

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.


The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Isn’t it wrong how the act of receiving an education is so fraught with bias? As a school pupil in England I saw how the latest buzzword ‘meritocracy’ was at play throughout the British Education system. But it seems that this bias is prevalent all over the world.

Recent events in the United States brought the education system into the news when two well-known actresses were charged and convicted of bribing a university official in order to get their daughters into an Ivy League programme even though they didn’t qualify.

To my knowledge I don’t believe that anything of this nature has ever transpired in the UK. It is, however, prevalent in many countries of the subcontinent where results are tampered with or exams papers are surreptitiously released for the benefit of a few. Or officials in these countries are bribed into changing an exam result from a lower grade to a higher grade.

It seems that, in most countries, the quality of the education you receive depends largely on your status and education. If you’re an aristocrat, upper middle class or elite, the education you receive will be vastly different from someone who is in the middle lower class range. It just seems like the curriculum followed by those in the upper middle class sectors is completely different than that followed by the lower middle classes. But make no mistake that it is the same curriculum all over the country because all pupils are aiming for exactly the same exams.

So why the difference in the results if they are all following the same syllabus? It turns out that many factors are at play here. First of all, the quality of the teachers really does determine how well a set of pupils will perform. Teachers for those in the lower middle class range don’t seem to teach as much or as well as those in the upper middle class. Teachers in the former often lack the incentive to teach because they either don’t get the classroom resources they require to achieve their results or because of a lack of proper pay.

Those in the latter, on the other hand, tend to be in the private education sector or are in districts that are better looked after by the government. Government funding for a particular district, therefore, determines to a large extent on how many resources will be available to its schools. Even in the UK, certain boroughs fare better than others simply because some are run by richer local authorities than others. Therefore, the richer the borough the better its schools perform and vice versa.

During my school years in England, I lived in two different boroughs. In the later years of school life I moved to a borough that was more well to do than the one from which I had moved. I can tell you with complete certainty that the quality of the education available in the two boroughs was as different as chalk and cheese. Whereas I seem to be doing really well in the former borough, when I moved to the new borough I found that I seem to be learning new things. I especially remember my maths and art classes. By the time I arrived in the borough, I was struggling to keep up simply because my basic grounding in maths had been staggeringly flawed in the previous school.

 A similar encounter happened in art classes. I could not draw to save my life. I didn’t know the first thing about shading or even colour mixing. When I got to my first art class in the new borough I was shocked beyond belief. More to the point, the teachers were shocked beyond belief because I didn’t even have enough art work that was of good quality or variety to display for my final year exam. The other students had so many, plus their art work was far superior to mine. I have to say that any art work I create now and that people like is purely from my own teaching! I owe nothing to the schools I went to.

Why didn’t my first school teach me anything? The teachers seemed to be on the ball, or so I thought. So is there a concerted effort in many countries to not teach children from certain boroughs? And if so why? Is it to keep certain members of the community uneducated so that they can do certain jobs the elite do not want to do? I really believe that is the case and that, to me, is frightening!

Related articles