India’s caste system and British private education are hardly alike, but both divide their societies

The percentages of privately educated people in positions of power and prestige in Britain are strikingly similar to those from the upper castes in India – and neither statistic is quick to change

Figures published by the education charity the Sutton Trust this week showed that only 16% of Britain’s senior doctors and one in 10 of its leading barristers were educated at state comprehensive schools. Among judges in the high court and court of appeal, the proportion was even smaller: 5% had attended a comprehensive, compared with the 21% who had gone to selective schools and the 74% who had gone private. In the military, only 12% of the army’s two-star generals and the equivalent ranks in the Royal Navy and the RAF had attended a comprehensive; among prominent journalists only 19%; among award-winning actors only 23%. In a country where 88% of the school-age population go to comprehensives (and only 7% to fee-paying schools), this represents a hugely disproportionate presence of the privately educated inside Britain’s elites, but then this is also a nation with a future which, to paraphrase the Duke of Wellington, will be won or lost on the playing fields of Eton.

Related: Privately educated elite continues to take top UK jobs, finds survey

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