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November 05, 2007

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stuart

voucher advocates like Megan are on board with standard testing (she just doesn't think that every aspect of teaching should be micro-managed by government), so it would actually be very easy to see which schools were the good ones. Bad parents would have to REALLY bad to not care or notice a grade point average.

Cleanthes

"And we know from the work of Joel Waldfogel that it's inefficient for one person to choose gifts for another"

But the other thing that we also know is that person A to buy a gift for Person B *using person C's money* is even worse.

Which is what state schools are about. If the problem is that the parent is not sufficiently informed to make a decent decision, how the hell is the state supposed to do better?

John M

I agree with both the above comments. It would require more than just a a bad parent to insist on sending their children to schools with inferior results,though, it would require a dedicated cohort of them in a particular location otherwise the school standards would anyhow be forced up by the usual mechanisms of competition.

Igor Belanov

We should really stop trying to pretend that 'choice' exists for everyone. Somebody is going to have to go to the bad schools, which with freedom of choice can logically only increase. At the moment those people are overwhelmingly the children of the less well-off. A situation that sees schools going to rack and ruin while others are building extensions and creating ever more congestion on the school run is not a desirable one. All markets in unequal societies are going to leave inequalities as they are and in some cases make them worse. A comprehensive system is the only way that we can try and ensure that all schools have the ability to get better. And greater equality in education will only come when we have greater equality in society.

Cleanthes

"Somebody is going to have to go to the bad schools, which with freedom of choice can logically only increase. "

Ah, the insistence on equality. Better to have everyone going to shit schools that for the general standard be higher but with more variation.

It's crap and it always was crap. It's crap when it applies to food distribution and it's crap when it applies to education.

Igor Belanov

I think somehow that we're dealing with different things. Why not have competition in the army? Have 'choice' between different governments? You can't explain why the general standard of education would be higher except by some abstract theory of competition based on food distribution.

Bishop Hill

I don't understand your reasoning. You show that people are bad at choosing things for others. This is not an argument for the state to provide education. Are states better at choosing things for others than parents? I would have thought the answer must be "No".

Rob Spear

It is the same as the obvious problems with having a single organization both providing health care, and benefiting from a death tax: a state will inevitably be more interested in using education to get the next generation to support it than in providing high quality education.

Parents, on the other hand, tend for obvious evolutionary reasons to want the best for their children.

Why do leftists believe that the state is ever capable of acting as some kind of neutral moral paragon when it never has before in recorded history?

Matt Munro

The best idea I've heard was the Tory one to give everyone education vouchers, value of which would be enough for the local comp, or could offset fees from a private school for people who wanted a private education but couldn't really afford it (in other words most of the parents I've ever met). You could then have a genuine choice and a genuine market in education. That would be a definite vote winner, but for some reason (other than them not winning an election) it dropped off the agenda.

dearieme

If bog standard State Schools are so good, why didn't the Blairs use them? Why, indeed, did they hire private tutors from Westminster? Did the Clintons use an ordinary American High School for their little princess? I bid thee "go figure" and, indeed, "get real".

ad

"Somebody is going to have to go to the bad schools, which with freedom of choice can logically only increase. "

Would someone care to explain this logic to me?

Igor Belanov

@ Matt Munro:

So basically a massive subsidy for the upper middle-classes that already send their kids to private schools?

And in answer to other comments, in a competitive environment bad schools are caught in a trap. Their reputation worsens and pupil numbers decline far beyond the level warranted by their performance, and this dooms most efforts to gain improvement. If 'good' schools are allowed to increase in size and prestige, then they will end up stealing children from average schools which from then see numbers decline and so on. If you use your imagination it's quite obvious.

Bishop Hill

Igor

Of course, if they have a commercial incentive, a school which the market perceived as a bit on the weak side might actually do something to improve its performance. You know, like fire ineffective staff, perhaps invest in new facilities? It's only state run organisations which sit back and let decline happen to them.

stuart

Igor, you are quite right, numbers will decline in bad schools. Those schools will find it harder to keep going, in fact they will close down if they can't get their act together.

Hurrah! One less bad school!

John M

"And in answer to other comments, in a competitive environment bad schools are caught in a trap. Their reputation worsens and pupil numbers decline far beyond the level warranted by their performance, and this dooms most efforts to gain improvement. "

You are assuming a zero sum school environment and forgetting that new schools would spring up to meet market need, as in Sweden where the voucher system has been very successful. These schools could be run on a traditional business model or could be teacher-co-operatives or teacher-parent partnerships.

reason

I'm way out the mainstream on this issue, I don't think the school makes as much difference as people think. (And testing definitely has positive feedback effects, exagerating small initial differences.) I have nothing against vouchers, so long as there is sufficient supply and we are not worsening self-selection or increasing average commutes excessively. I'm for looking at this as Ivan Illich did - students should learn however they can and TESTING should be kept independent from the method of learning. More radical reforms still are possible. (Different schools for different days of the week?)

reason

By the way, I tend to think that schools as we have them at the moment are not primarily there to educate students. They are mainly there to RATE students and socialise them. Perhaps we first need to have a discussion about what we want schools to do.

Cleanthes

"Why not have competition in the army? "

Ever heard of regiments and the exceptionally fierce competition between them? Squadrons in the RAF? Ships in the Navy?

These are small organisations - all 3 armed services have arrived with the same concept of a unit size of ~500 men or thereabouts with huge amounts of individual autonomy as to how they are run.

Have 'choice' between different governments? Fantastic idea, though a better question might be "Why government?", not "which government?". This is precisely the process used within Switzerland. Cantons compete in a very real sense to attract individuals and businesses.

Matt Munro

@ Matt Munro:

So basically a massive subsidy for the upper middle-classes that already send their kids to private schools?


Posted by: Igor Belanov | November 06, 2007 at 08:32 AM

And an even bigger subsidy, relatively, to the lower middle/aspirational working class, who don't want their kids educated by the state, can't afford full private fees and aren't prepared to convert to Islam to get into a good school.
Say state education is valued at £5k a year, many people would be happy to add a few grand to move up a notch. Private education would become less elitist and in theory "average" kids would benefit from being around brighter peers. A lot of the quangocracy and micro management in education would be curtailed.
Maybe vouchers could be means tested, with say higher rate tax payers not getting full wack.

Sam

Maybe vouchers could be means tested, with say higher rate tax payers not getting full wack.

No, let's not. If you want to tax higher-rate payers more then tax them more. We don't need yet another means-tested benefit in place of a tax raise.

Oh, and Igor?

Yes, bad schools will lose their pupils and close down. Good schools will expand, and new ones will spring up to replace the bad ones. That's the point. If you have school vouchers, but the government still runs all the schools and fixes the number of spaces at each one, you haven't gained anything.

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