Posts Tagged ‘school choice’

school choice in the Netherlands

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Surprisingly little has been written on school choice in the Netherlands, despite its long history – 100 years – of equal funding to public and private schools. A recent World Bank helps to remedy this neglect.

One of the key features of the Dutch education system is freedom of education – freedom to establish schools, determine the principles on which the school is based, and organize classroom teaching. In fact, the Netherlands has one of the oldest national systems based on school choice in the world. ….

There is relative ease of entry of new providers. A small number of parents can and do propose to start a school. Government is required to provide initial capital costs and ongoing expenses, while the municipality provides buildings. …. The requisite number of parents required to set up a school varies according to population density, from 200 for small municipalities to 337 for The Hague.

Each family is entitled to choose the school – public or private – they want and the state pays. The main impediment to choice is distance, although parents are free to choose a school anywhere in their city of residence or indeed anywhere in the country since there are no catchment areas. ….

Money follows students and each school receives for each student enrolled a sum equivalent to the per capita cost of public schooling.

Harry A. Patrinos, “Private Education Provision and Public Finance: The Netherlands”, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 5185, January 2010. Also posted at SSRN.

There is little difference between public and private Dutch schools in average scores of pupils on standardized tests. Patrinos nonetheless finds, using an instrumental variable for school choice, that private schools outperform public schools. This finding is surprising, since competition from private schools is expected to cause public schools to improve. Efficiencies of public schools are apparently not yet equal to those of private schools, even after a hundred years of choice and competition. Patrinos notes that it is children of the relatively less well-off who attend private schools in the Netherlands, so concludes that it is possible “the true private school effect operates via the value it adds for students from relatively less well-off backgrounds”.

The educational system of the Netherlands is similar to one inaugurated 18 years ago in Sweden, as described here and here.

Faithful readers of Thought du Jour will recall that Holland “has one of the world’s lowest rates of teenage pregnancy, about a fifth of the British level; far fewer deaths from drugs overdoses than even Denmark or Norway; and less cannabis use than the UK or US”. Does the educational system deserve at least some credit for this result?

I have often wondered why those who are pro-choice when it comes to abortion almost always oppose choice when it comes to schooling. If you have an explanation, please share it by posting a comment.

basic education and human rights

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Some time ago I drafted a paper on education and presented it to a conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The full paper can now be downloaded from SSRN (Social Science Research Network). Here is an abstract:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises free elementary education and free choice of schools to children and their parents. International fora emphasise the first right while neglecting the second. This essay examines arguments for limiting school choice and finds each of them to be unconvincing. It then describes three school systems: India, with free choice, but only for those who can afford to pay; Sweden, with taxpayer-funded free choice for everyone; and Finland, which allows parents almost no choice at all in basic education.

Larry Willmore, “Basic Education as a Human Right Redux”, 26 July 2008.

I included ‘redux’ in the title because I revisit the theme of an earlier essay that was published in Economic Affairs (December 2004).

Mill, Marx, Hitler and UNESCO on state education

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Two of these authors oppose state education, and  two support the idea. Strange allies, indeed – on both sides of this issue.

First, the opponents of state schools.

A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation, in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body. An education established and controlled by the State, should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus, to keep the others up to a certain standard of excellence.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859), chapter V, paragraph 13.

‘Elementary education by the state’ is altogether objectionable. Defining by a general law the expenditures on the elementary schools, the qualifications of the teaching staff, the branches of instruction, etc., and … supervising the fulfillment of these legal specifications by state inspectors, is a very different thing from appointing the state as the educator of the people! Government and church should rather be equally excluded from any influence on the school.

Karl Marx, 1875, Critique of the Gotha Program.

Next, the supporters of government schools.

By educating the young generation along the right lines, the People’s State will have to see to it that a generation of mankind is formed which will be adequate to this supreme combat that will decide the destinies of the world.

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (1939), trans. James Murphy, Vol II, Ch 2, p. 357.

[UNESCO] is convinced that public and private education sectors each have something valuable to contribute, and that by combining their efforts and forging partnerships, they can boost the educational system’s overall effectiveness–under one condition: primary responsibility for teaching must remain in the hands of public authorities, because they alone are the guardians of the common interest.

Jacques Hallak, “Guarding the common interest” , UNESCO Courier, November 2000, p. 17.

Jacques Hallak was writing in his official capacity, as UNESCO’s assistant director-general for education.

Recycled from the Thought du Jour archive.