Global Education Action Week 2007

During Global Education Action Week 2007, activities will take place worldwide to raise awareness ab

This week and up to 29 April millions of children around the world will be joining together in activities as part of Global Education Action Week.

The Global Campaign for Education initiated the idea five years ago to raise awareness about the importance of providing every child with a proper education.

Throughout the week, children will participate in events aimed to remind local and national leaders that they need to place literacy and education at the top of their political agendas.

This year, many children made human and paper chains to signify the right to education that every child has, no matter where they live. They are encouraged to send their paper chains to world leaders attending the G8 conference this June, and schools across the globe have been doing so, as well as raising awareness in other creative ways.

The Global Campaign for Education also invites people to show their support by signing up to an online chain on its Join up! website, which currently has over 40,000 participants.

And we at newstatesman.com would like to invite children, teachers, parents and education supporters all over the world to share their experiences during this week's activities by submitting them in writing and pictures to our website at online@newstatesman.co.uk.

Manor Park Public School, Ottawa, Canada

About 600 children in grades one through six at Manor Park Public School launched Global Education Action Week on April 17 by opening the huge paper chain each had contributed to in the gymnasium. Then Irene Adanusa, President of Education International Africa Region and General Secretary of the Ghanaian Teachers' Association, spoke about what education was like in Ghana, and Member of Parliament for Vanier, Hon. Mauril Bélange, offered his help to any of them who were willing to work on providing education to a particular worldwide community.

The children commented on their experiences.

"Education is very important for the world. Everyone, adults, teenagers, children should have and education. Throughout the world, right now, children are the most important people to have education. Many children don’t have the opportunity to be what they want to be or to do what they want to do because of a lack of education.

The week of April 23, 2007 is Global Action Week. Throughout this week people around the world joined in this campaign to raise awareness to help the children who have no education. Kids around the world made people or paper chains to show how important education is. This campaign helped a lot! But still, to give education for all by 2015 we still need 18 million more teachers. Over 80 million kids still don’t have an education.

To me, it’s very important for children to have an education. I want their dreams to come true. I want them to have a future! I hope the people from richer countries feel the same way and do something about it. Families in poor countries need the money to survive. If their children have an education they might become teachers and help their families. It’s important for everyone to have an education!"

-Laily Popal

"Why is education important? Why can't people just "live" without it? Because without an education, you never know what the future holds for you. Drugs, alcohol, things that sometimes lead to even...DEATH! A lot of people have made promises,but why haven't these promises been made? Doesn't everyone deserve an education? Some children must work hard to support their families when they should be in school learning. but why are these things happening? Over 18 million teachers are needed so that EVERY SINGLE child gets an education. but we cannot do it alone. You must help. So go ahead, and save a life."

-Matouga Mohamed

"Education is important for all children because there are over 1 million children that have dreams of becoming doctors, dentists, firemen, policemen and lots of other lifesaving professions. These children can make a difference in the
future.

All children have a right to get educated. One day you will realize that you made the right choice and maybe they might help you!

Help the uneducated!"

-Ibrahim Matar

"Why is education important for all the children in the world to have? Well,
education is one of the most important things to have in the world. If you
don't have an education, it will be even harder to be what you want to be,
and do what you want to do. My school, Manor Park, had an assembly about
global education. We invited some people to come and talk to us about global
education. Amazingly, we had a lady come all the way from Ghana to talk
about it! For example, she stated how Africa does not have enough qualified
teachers for all the children, as well as the fact that they don't have
enough schools. If everyone in the world could hear something like this, it
would have a huge impact on the understanding of the importance of global
education."

-Simon Mertick

Ysgol Emmanuel, Rhyl, Wales,

On April 20, the 471 students and staff at Ysgol Emmanuel in Wales came together to show off the paper chain they had been making to local MP, Chris Ruane. The children will be sending the chain, which includes contributions from children ages four to 11, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in preparation for the G8 meeting in June.

Some of the children shared their thoughts on the fight for global education.

"It is really good to help others."
-Reilly, age 9

"I didn't know there were so many children not in school, that is amazing!"
-Kelsi, age 8

"Its not fair for them. We do loads of fun things at school!"
-Cameron, age 9

"My mum says I should never break a promise so I don't think they should!"
-Jared, age 11

Taipei, Taiwan

"The National Teacher's Assocaiton planned the ‘Official Back to School Day’ on April 23 inviting administration representatives and legislators to schools and joining hands with the children in support of the campaign. There students asked officials to sign-up to the campaign, thereby undertaking to urge the Government to keep its promise of promoting quality education for all both in Taiwan and around the world. Through the campaign, children learned not only to cherish the education resources in Taiwan, also to take social responsibility to fight for everyone's education rights."
-Liao Wan-Ju, Associate Director of Dipl. Dep., NTA, Taiwan

Spain

More than 70 cities in Spain have been united in Global Education activities. Tens of thousands of students, professors, parents and mothers are making human chains. Not only the students are participating in the mobilizations. Politicians are, as well, and among them is Leyre Pajín, State Secretary of Development. He participated in the chain in Madrid and is committed to continue working so that the Education is a right for all the children of the planet.

Music, the dances and the games have brightened up the central acts, turning them an authentic celebration.

Human chains have been created in many of Spain's large cities. In Barcelona one was created in Sagrada Family Square, in Seville, a chain was created in front of the cathedral and ,in Madrid, it took place in the Plaza Mayor. In Aragón, the Plaza del Pillar was united forming a chain.

In the Canary Islands, radio ECCA emits weekly programs, in collaboration with the UNESCO, in which the institutional children and representatives look for solutions to facilitate the right to the Education of All.

In Cantabria the mobilization will be massive in the main localities of the region. In the Basque Country all the mayors and delegates of education participate. In Navarra, they will mobilize themselves on the most centric streets. And, in La Rioja, children of two and three years will mobilize until they have gone to the patios of the schools.

Hana Bieliauskas is a junior at Ohio University majoring in magazine journalism. She is currently studying in London.
Picture: Archives Charmet / Bridgeman Images
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What Marx got right

...and what he got wrong.

1. You’re probably a capitalist – among other things

Are you a capitalist? The first question to ask is: do you own shares? Even if you don’t own any directly (about half of Americans do but the proportion is far lower in most other countries) you may have a pension that is at least partly invested in the stock market; or you’ll have savings in a bank.

So you have some financial wealth: that is, you own capital. Equally, you are probably also a worker, or are dependent directly or indirectly on a worker’s salary; and you’re a consumer. Unless you live in an autonomous, self-sufficient commune – very unusual – you are likely to be a full participant in the capitalist system.

We interact with capitalism in multiple ways, by no means all economic. And this accounts for the conflicted relationship that most of us (including me) have with capitalism. Typically, we neither love it nor hate it, but we definitely live it.

2. Property rights are fundamental to capitalism . . . but they are not absolute

If owning something means having the right to do what you want with it, property rights are rarely unconstrained. I am free to buy any car I want – so long as it meets European pollution standards and is legally insured; and I can drive it anywhere I want, at least on public roads, as long as I have a driver’s licence and keep to the speed limit. If I no longer want the car, I can’t just dump it: I have to dispose of it in an approved manner. It’s mine, not yours or the state’s, and the state will protect my rights over it. But – generally for good reason – how I can use it is quite tightly constrained.

This web of rules and constraints, which both defines and restricts property rights, is characteristic of a complex economy and society. Most capitalist societies attempt to resolve these tensions in part by imposing restrictions, constitutional or political, on arbitrary or confiscatory actions by governments that “interfere” with property rights. But the idea that property rights are absolute is not philosophically or practically coherent in a modern society.

3. What Marx got right about capitalism

Marx had two fundamental insights. The first was the importance of economic forces in shaping human society. For Marx, it was the “mode of production” – how labour and capital were combined, and under what rules – that explained more or less everything about society, from politics to culture. So, as modes of production change, so too does society. And he correctly concluded that industrialisation and capitalism would lead to profound changes in the nature of society, affecting everything from the political system to morality.

The second insight was the dynamic nature of capitalism in its own right. Marx understood that capitalism could not be static: given the pursuit of profit in a competitive economy, there would be constant pressure to increase the capital stock and improve productivity. This in turn would lead to labour-saving, or capital-intensive, technological change.

Putting these two insights together gives a picture of capitalism as a radical force. Such are its own internal dynamics that the economy is constantly evolving, and this in turn results in changes in the wider society.

4. And what he got wrong . . .

Though Marx was correct that competition would lead the owners of capital to invest in productivity-enhancing and labour-saving machinery, he was wrong that this would lead to wages being driven down to subsistence level, as had largely been the case under feudalism. Classical economics, which argued that new, higher-productivity jobs would emerge, and that workers would see their wages rise more or less in line with productivity, got this one right. And so, in turn, Marx’s most important prediction – that an inevitable conflict between workers and capitalists would lead ultimately to the victory of the former and the end of capitalism – was wrong.

Marx was right that as the number of industrial workers rose, they would demand their share of the wealth; and that, in contrast to the situation under feudalism, their number and geographical concentration in factories and cities would make it impossible to deny these demands indefinitely. But thanks to increased productivity, workers’ demands in most advanced capitalist economies could be satisfied without the system collapsing. So far, it seems that increased productivity, increased wages and increased consumption go hand in hand, not only in individual countries but worldwide.

5. All societies are unequal. But some are more unequal than others

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an increasing proportion of an economy’s output was captured by a small class of capitalists who owned and controlled the means of production. Not only did this trend stop in the 20th century, it was sharply reversed. Inherited fortunes, often dating back to the pre-industrial era, were eroded by taxes and inflation, and some were destroyed by the Great Depression. Most of all, after the Second World War the welfare state redistributed income and wealth within the framework of a capitalist economy.

Inequality rose again after the mid-1970s. Under Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the welfare state was cut back. Tax and social security systems became less progressive. Deregulation, the decline of heavy industry and reduction of trade union power increased the wage differential between workers. Globally the chief story of the past quarter-century has been the rise of the “middle class”: people in emerging economies who have incomes of up to $5,000 a year. But at the same time lower-income groups in richer countries have done badly.

Should we now worry about inequality within countries, or within the world as a whole? And how much does an increasing concentration of income and wealth among a small number of people – and the consequent distortions of the political system – matter when set against the rapid ­income growth for large numbers of people in the emerging economies?

Growing inequality is not an inevitable consequence of capitalism. But, unchecked, it could do severe economic damage. The question is whether our political systems, national and global, are up to the challenge.

6. China’s road to capitalism is unique

The day after Margaret Thatcher died, I said on Radio 4’s Today programme: “In 1979, a quarter of a century ago, a politician came to power with a radical agenda of market-oriented reform; a plan to reduce state control and release the country’s pent-up economic dynamism. That changed the world, and we’re still feeling the impact. His name, of course, was Deng Xiaoping.”

The transition from state to market in China kick-started the move towards truly globalised capitalism. But the Chinese road to capitalism has been unique. First agriculture was liberalised, then entrepreneurs were allowed to set up small businesses, while at the same time state-owned enterprises reduced their workforces; yet there has been no free-for-all, either for labour or for capital. The movement of workers from rural to urban areas, and from large, unproductive, state-owned enterprises to more productive private businesses, though vast, has been controlled. Access to capital still remains largely under state control. Moreover, though its programme is not exactly “Keynesian”, China has used all the tools of macroeconomic management to keep growth high and relatively stable.

That means China is still far from a “normal” capitalist economy. The two main engines of growth have been investment and the movement of labour from the countryside to the cities. This in itself was enough, because China had so much catching-up to do. However, if the Chinese are to close the huge gap between themselves and the advanced economies, more growth will need to come from innovation and technological progress. No one doubts that China has the human resources to deliver this, but its system will have to change.

7. How much is enough?

The human instinct to improve our material position is deeply rooted: control over resources, especially food and shelter, made early human beings more able to reproduce. That is intrinsic to capitalism; the desire to acquire income and wealth motivates individuals to work, save, invent and invest. As Adam Smith showed, this benefits us all. But if we can produce more than enough for everybody, what will motivate people? Growth would stop. Not that this would necessarily be a bad thing: yet our economy and society would be very different.

Although we are at least twice as rich as we were half a century ago, the urge to consume more seems no less strong. Relative incomes matter. We compare ourselves not to our impoverished ancestors but to other people in similar situations: we strive to “keep up with the Joneses”. The Daily Telegraph once described a London couple earning £190,000 per year (in the top 0.1 per cent of world income) as follows: “The pair are worried about becoming financially broken as the sheer cost of middle-class life in London means they are stretched to the brink.” Talk about First World problems.

Is there any limit? Those who don’t like the excesses of consumerism might hope that as our material needs are satisfied, we will worry less about keeping up with the Joneses and more about our satisfaction and enjoyment of non-material things. It is equally possible, of course, that we’ll just spend more time keeping up with the Kardashians instead . . .

8. No more boom and bust

Are financial crises and their economic consequences part of the natural (capitalist) order of things? Politicians and economists prefer to think otherwise. No longer does anyone believe that “light-touch” regulation of the banking sector is enough. New rules have been introduced, designed to restrict leverage and ensure that failure in one or two financial institutions does not lead to systemic failure. Many would prefer a more wholesale approach to reining in the financial system; this would have gained the approval of Keynes, who thought that while finance was necessary, its role in capitalism should be strictly limited.

But maybe there is a more fundamental problem: that recurrent crises are baked into the system. The “financial instability” hypothesis says that the more governments and regulators stabilise the system, the more this will breed overconfidence, leading to more debt and higher leverage. And sooner or later the music stops. If that is the case, then financial capitalism plus human nature equals inevitable financial crises; and we should make sure that we have better contingency plans next time round.

9. Will robots take our jobs?

With increasing mechanisation (from factories to supermarket checkouts) and computerisation (from call centres to tax returns), is it becoming difficult for human beings to make or produce anything at less cost than a machine can?

Not yet – more Britons have jobs than at any other point in history. That we can produce more food and manufactured products with fewer people means that we are richer overall, leaving us to do other things, from economic research to performance art to professional football.

However, the big worry is that automation could shift the balance of power between capital and labour in favour of the former. Workers would still work; but many or most would be in relatively low-value, peripheral jobs, not central to the functioning of the economy and not particularly well paid. Either the distribution of income and wealth would widen further, or society would rely more on welfare payments and charity to reduce unacceptable disparities between the top and the bottom.

That is a dismal prospect. Yet these broader economic forces pushing against the interests of workers will not, on their own, determine the course of history. The Luddites were doomed to fail; but their successors – trade unionists who sought to improve working conditions and Chartists who demanded the vote so that they could restructure the economy and the state – mostly succeeded. The test will be whether our political and social institutions are up to the challenge.

10. What’s the alternative?

There is no viable economic alternative to capitalism at the moment but that does not mean one won’t emerge. It is economics that determines the nature of our society, and we are at the beginning of a profound set of economic changes, based on three critical developments.

Physical human input into production will become increasingly rare as robots take over. Thanks to advances in computing power and artificial intelligence, much of the analytic work that we now do in the workplace will be carried out by machines. And an increasing ability to manipulate our own genes will extend our lifespan and allow us to determine our offspring’s characteristics.

Control over “software” – information, data, and how it is stored, processed and manipulated – will be more important than control over physical capital, buildings and machines. The defining characteristic of the economy and society will be how that software is produced, owned and commanded: by the state, by individuals, by corporations, or in some way as yet undefined.

These developments will allow us, if we choose, to end poverty and expand our horizons, both materially and intellectually. But they could also lead to growing inequality, with the levers of the new economy controlled by a corporate and moneyed elite. As an optimist, I hope for the former. Yet just as it wasn’t the “free market” or individual capitalists who freed the slaves, gave votes to women and created the welfare state, it will be the collective efforts of us all that will enable humanity to turn economic advances into social progress. 

Jonathan Portes's most recent book is “50 Ideas You Really Need to Know: Capitalism” (Quercus)

Jonathan Portes is senior fellow The UK in a Changing Europe and Professor of Economics and Public Policy, King’s College London.

This article first appeared in the 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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