Jeremy Corbyn has proposed a comprehensive national education service that would provide free education for all in his bid to hold on as Leader of the Labour party.
In an article he wrote for LabourList announcing the plan, Corbyn said that his proposal would provide free learning and training “from the cradle to the grave” and that his initiative would benefit the British economy.
According to The Mirror, the proposed plans would see an investment of £500 billion in infrastructure and high-tech industry over ten years. This, Corbyn claims, would help close the UK’s productivity gap and would boost the economy by £96 billion a year.
The plans for free education, originally proposed in 2015, have been given a direct likeness to the NHS. Corbyn’s initiative has a similar name and acronym, the NES, or National Education Service:
“A National Education Service would be every bit as vital and as free at the point of use as our NHS, and should be delivered by the end of the next Parliament.”
This ties in with Corbyn’s views, expressed in his article and in his rallies, that the current Tory administration is leading Britain in the wrong direction, including through its increasing privatisation of the NHS.
Within Corbyn’s Labourlist article was a direct accusation aimed at Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time George Osborne:
“George Osborne is taking us in entirely the wrong direction. The adult skills budget has been slashed by 40% since 2010. The cuts are staggering not only in their scale, but in their gross irresponsibility too.”
Corbyn also claims that the Conservative Party’s cuts will only cause a decline in Britain’s economy, stating that “a country that doesn’t invest in its people has taken the path of managed decline,” and that following these principles, “the only global race we will win is to the bottom.”
The news that Corbyn means to use the proposal to help retain his position follows recent reports that Labour members at the constituency level have voted overwhelmingly to back him in the party’s leadership contest. As reported by Business Insider, 285 out of 387 constituencies voted for Corbyn compared to just 53 who have backed challenger Owen Smith.
However, there is a striking disparity between the vote of the constituency and those of the extended Labour voting population. A recent piece by the Evening Standard has suggested that Labour supporters are more satisfied with how Prime Minister Theresa May is doing her job than with how Corbyn is performing.
Asked by the Observer how he would fund his plans for a free for all education service, Corbyn replied:
“It is expensive. We will fund it through corporate taxation levels. By not reducing taxation and by chasing down tax avoidance and tax evasion.”
However, the current Leader of the Opposition feels that these are necessary steps and that the UK will see benefits in the long-term, stating that “it’s costing us a lot of money not to have a higher level of higher education. If we invest in it we will benefit from it.”
In his original proposal, Corbyn cited the fact that the UK is lagging behind countries like the US, Germany, Japan and France on productivity and questioned its ability to challenge these countries if its government continues to cut back on opportunities for lifelong learning.