This institutionalized inequality doesn’t only harm low achievers. The system emphasizes academic attainment over social development. British children start school earlier and sit more exams than other Europeans. Many of them complain of stress.
“Britain is a very individualistic culture, in which a huge emphasis is placed on personal success and less on good fellowship,” says Layard. “We’ve made a virtue of competition, which means other people are a threat, not a support.”
Emily Benn says the drive for good results can let down pupils who find the work too difficult: “When you’re in a competitive environment and someone is obviously struggling, the teachers assume they’re not trying. They should make them feel better about themselves. Instead they make them feel stupid.”
From the lead article of April’s European edition of Time magazine which can be read here. ‘Virtue in competition’ – the backlash of living in a privatised society? Reeks of Thatcher and ‘everyone should be a number in a state computer’. What do you expect from a nation of consumers rather than a society of citizens?
For more information on that line of thought check out Adam Curtis’s The Trap: What Happened To Our Dream Called Freedom. The Wikipedia article is a good start.