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Are Private Schools Really Better? Not for Everybody and not Everywhere

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By Giuseppe Bertola, Professor of Economics at EDHEC Business School; CEPR Labour Economics Programme Director. Originally published at VoxEU.

School voucher programmes that are meant to allow students who could not otherwise afford private schools to attend them are often hotly, and often emotionally, debated. This column presents findings based on the PISA survey of private education in 72 countries and regions. Evidence suggests that in countries with basic government-provided education, private schools occupy a high-quality market niche. Overall, the education policy menu should include improvement of public education standards as well as vouchers, which policymakers in countries with better public education should not adopt without considering their distributional and efficiency implications. While they can be beneficial, voucher schemes do not enhance overall equality of opportunities and efficiency in countries where governments supply high-quality education.

Policy debates are frequent and emotional in many countries about voucher programmes meant to allow students who could not otherwise afford private schools to attend them. In May-June 2013, for example, controversies arose about such measures in the New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania State budgets, and about the results of a referendum on public funding of private pre-primary schools in Bologna, Italy. School vouchers are typically advocated by right-wing politicians who distrust governments’ ability to manage education (or anything else) and economists who favour competitive pressure and fear that heavily unionised public-school teachers may pay scant attention to the current and future needs of their students.

Voucher programmes might be a good thing

It is also possible, however, to view voucher programmes as an uncontroversial and sensible solution to a classic economic problem. If individual ability is complementary to school resources in producing education, then talented individuals are willing to pay for more and better educational resources than those supplied by a public school system that caters to the median voter’s ability (Stiglitz 1974). Then, publicly funded schools leave room for expensive private schools that, being attended by better students and using more and better educational resources, deliver better education. Relaxing the borrowing constraints that exclude brilliant but poor students from better schools, voucher schemes can improve equality of opportunities at the same time as they enhance the productivity of society’s educational resources.

Empirical Evidence

This theoretical perspective fits empirical evidence from US, UK, and other Anglo-Saxon schooling systems, where private schools are attended by students who appear to be more talented as well as richer (Epple and Romano 1998; De Fraja 2002; Epple, Figlio, and Romano 2004). Educational resources can substitute rather than complement talent, however, so other configurations are possible. Students who enrol in private schools should be less talented than those of demanding government schools, and their school performance can be especially bad when private schools are no more expensive than government schools, but use their autonomy to cater to slow learners (Bertola, Checchi, and Oppedisano 2007; Brunello and Rocco 2008).

Figure 1. Country-specific differences between private and government school students’ average PISA test scores (in mathematics, reading, and science), plotted against country-specific differences between private and government schools’ percentage of total funding paid by parents

bertola

Bertola and Checchi (2013) find evidence in the 2009 PISA survey (OECD 2012) that private schools indeed do not everywhere deliver better schooling outcomes. Figure 1 shows that while in almost every country privately managed schools cover more of their costs with user fees than government schools, there is only a mildly positive association between the relative cost and apparent quality (as measured by the PISA test) of private education across all the 72 countries or regions in the data set. If the best students were selected into a private sector that supplies better education, PISA scores differentials should all be positive, and larger where the percentage of school funding from fees or charges paid by parents differ more across private and government schools. This is the case in all Anglo-Saxon countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), but in several countries (notably in Italy, and in Norway) private-school students do worse on the PISA test.

Detailed information collected by the PISA survey on individual school and students within each country makes it possible to study in more detail the qualitatively different roles played by private educational establishments in educational systems. School-level information is available on organisational aspects that indicate whether the school specialises in education of high-ability individuals, or in strengthening the educational outcomes of weak students. Differences in such respects between each country’s private and government schools can be interacted with indicators of each student’s ability to learn, and to choose private schools. The survey offers relevant information on the family’s wealth and cultural level, and the PISA test result itself (administered only a year or two after secondary-school enrolment) can be viewed as an indication of each student’s talent rather than of the school’s effectiveness.

Regressions that describe individual private-school enrolment choices detect a positive interaction between the family’s apparent wealth and the country-specific relative cost of private education, suggesting that ability to pay plays an important role in determining choice of privately managed schools. The family’s apparent cultural level, however, interacts negatively with indicators of country-specific academic performance expectation differentials across private and government schools. These and other results suggest that privately managed schooling is not necessarily chosen for students who, on the basis of their family’s cultural level and test performances, appear better able to cope with a demanding learning environment.

Further Research

Further research should study the historical and political determinants of whether, in each country, privately managed schools are funded by the government (as is the case in Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Slovak Republic, Serbia, Slovenia, and Sweden), and whether the teaching organisation of government schools caters to low- or high-ability students, leaving different market niches to be filled by private schools. But existing evidence already indicate that voters and policymakers should not take it for granted that ‘private schools are better’. They are indeed better for students who choose to attend them, but may be seeking remedial education when government education is demanding, rather than opportunities to express their talent because government schools cater to low-ability students.

Policy Implications

In countries with basic government-provided education, private schools are allowed to occupy a high-quality market niche. The policy menu should include improvement of public education standards as well as vouchers, which policymakers in countries with better public education should not adopt without considering their distributional and efficiency implications. If high-quality government schools attract the brightest segment of the student pool, then vouchers funding privately organised education benefit students who are not rich or dumb enough to purchase unsubsidised remedial education. While the resulting redistribution across differently wealthy and differently able individuals may be politically attractive in some cases, voucher schemes do not enhance overall equality of opportunities and efficiency in countries where governments supply high-quality education.

References

Bertola G Checchi D (2013), “Who Chooses Which Private Education? Theory and International Evidence”, CEPR Discussion Paper 9513.

Bertola G Checchi D Oppedisano V (2007), “Private School Quality in Italy”, Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia 66(3), 375-400.

Brunello G Rocco L (2008), “Educational Standards in Private and Public Schools”, Economic Journal 118(533), 1866-1887.

De Fraja G (2002), “The design of optimal educational policies”, Review of Economic Studies 69: 437-466.

Epple D and Romano R (1998), “Competition between private and public schools vouchers and peer-group effects”, The American Economic Review 88(1), 33-62.

Epple D, D Figlio and R Romano (2004), “Competition between private and public schools: testing stratification and pricing predictions”, Journal of Public Economics 88, 1215–1245.

OECD (2012), “PISA 2009 Technical Report”, Paris, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Stiglitz J (1974), “The demand for education in public and private school systems”, Journal of Public Economics 3, 349-385.

* * *

Lambert here: But private schools are most definitely better for those who own them. Eh?

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34 comments

  1. Salty

    While I recognize it’s an academic paper, the policy prescription is wrong for reasons the author did not even consider. Allow me to explain:

    After some time of a particular policy being implemented, the people who were raised with that policy will believe it was there for a reason. That reason usually does not align with the actual one. The result is that people will start to think the policy is innate and fundamental.

    If you’re going to have private schools, then the idea of “borrowing” or “funding” them is inherently disgusting. No matter how you slice it, private schools are based on money and that produces at least two classes of people: those with, and those without. The classes then self-reinforce, and upper-class people tell themselves they are superior because they are smarter and better educated.

    Is there an efficiency gain? Can we even realistically apply the concept of efficiency here? I don’t particularly care if private schools increase some economist’s definition of ‘efficiency’, I care about equality and morality. Equality says: No private schools.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Entire political systems have been based on ‘equality.’

      Most of them are gone now.

    2. Lafayette

      No matter how you slice it, private schools are based on money and that produces at least two classes of people: those with, and those without.

      Too true.

      It breeds an “us and them” class distinction that became aberrant in the UK for the longest period of time – both in government and industry/commerce.

      In the US, it leads to discrimination as well (in industry/commerce) but fortunately not government. The latter is abjectly dominated by Vested Interests since financing is always key to electoral results. Which means that schooling does not matter in terms of governance, but political outlook (POV) very certainly does.

      The same can be noted in France, with a subtle difference. The country is run by an elite, called ENArques, since they all graduate from the Ecole Nationale d’Administration. And when one looks at their provenance … it’s not more than ten to twelve “select” secondary schools in the whole country.

      ENArques go immediately into government and, through government ownership, they pass into industry/commerce. That career path is well trodden.

      So, France has highly educated “overlords” who articulate themselves very well (on TV), but haven’t even the most basic notion of business strategy. This focusing on “educational background” is the general failing of French business and its inability, for instance, to build growth out of export markets (as Germany has done). The ENArques only care about organigrams.

      In Freance this manner of enterprise management is called “nombrilism”, which means to contemplate one’s navel. It is highly destructive because it leads to inaction – and inaction is the death knell of any industry or commerce.

  2. C

    While I thank the article for some of the discussion I think that there is more to it than that. Educational and sociological research has pointed out that student performance is driven by a large number of factors (e.g. the economy) that are independent of whether the school is public or private. Private schools, like magnet schools, often perform better because they are focused soley on high performing students rather than on reaching otherwise low-performing ones.

    Moreover, as Lambert noted, there is a difference in school ownership. Public schools are owned by the community. Many of the strongest elite private schools are, like Harvard, private but ostensibly non-profit and thus responsive to their residents. Many of the new charters on the scene, however are for profit or are being sponsored by for-profit entities with the goal of making money.

    The catch with vouchers is that depending upon how they are run they can and will actually reduce funding for public schools. This is also true of some charter systems (e.g. Chicago) where the school system is actively sucking funding out of existing public schools, thus degrading their performance, to setup charters. Ironically as the numbers indicate the charters are still not measuring up despite being given extra advantages.

  3. nonclassical

    ..having taught secondary, U.S. and Europe, the question is GOAL…currently U.S. scapegoating media (pardon lengthy dissertation) is asserting destruction of public ed….notice, they NEVER discuss GOAL…

    As I began teaching, large west coast (Jimi Hendrix’s) inner-city high, my mother was Superintendent of Schools…she instituted bussing; necessary to continue to receive FED $$$$=integrated schools..

    My one sophomore class was unique-nearly all white, middle-class. My dept. head was woman I attended secondary with-and girlfriend of my best friend-teacher in school…all other classes were majority minority…Black, Asian Latino.

    I gave 11 “A” grades to students who earned such-dept. head confronted me-stated I couldn’t giver 11 “A” grades-”We grade on curve”…I told her-showed her, this group was unlike any other-she reiterated position-stating all new teachers believe this…

    I informed her I had no other classes like this-asked her how this came to pass…she informed me, this was due to “my mother”-instituting bussing…late arrivals were just placed in my class-not the NORMAL “way”…I asked what the NORMAL “way” entailed….she defined, “We place so many “A” students, to bring up “B” students-so many “B” students to bring up “C” students-so on…

    I was struck-the CURVE was created PRIOR to one class taught….subsequently, I began to watch youth arriving first day in class-they look around-see where they “fit” or fail..in comparison to others. I realized there was no INTENTION=GOAL to educate ALL…to their aptitude=skills. This is the huge LIE
    leading to scapegoating education as provider of opportunity-it was never educational opportunity families sought-it was ECONOMIC opportunity. The GOAL in U.S. is to create SOME winners, SOME losers, majority mediocrity…

    But how would I know? Having taught Europe, 4 year university or vocational equivalent grad rates are near 80%, as they attempt to educate all, to aptitude driven economic-life-skill level… to create TAXPAYERS for social systems…GOAL.

    In U.S., media scapegoats education…local Superintendent of schools asked me- as result-what should she DO..? I stated, raise grad levels by 20%…she realized, “But there aren’t JOBS”, if we do….and I stated, “Yes, and then it’s THEIR problem-you’ve done yours…they can no longer scapegoat ed…

    You see, after 8th grade, Euro students focus on 3 aptitude driven areas of study-after 10th grade, 2…so they can ALL succeed…pay taxes=GOAL. General studies end. So, when U.S. “test scores” are compared to Euro test scores, science, or math, for example, only Euro students whose APTITUDE dictates, continue in math-science….while ALL U.S. youth do so. We are comparing only those Euro students whose aptitude leads them to continue, to ALL U.S. students…

    Then U.S. media-business blame education for disenfranchised youth…meanwhile, those majority mediocrity and losers, who can’t “compete” with “winners”, attempt to find other means of being “successful”…drugs, alcohol, jokester (or prankster) tactics…AND suicide…

    To tell the TRUTH, “charter schools” are all about fundamentalist driven 30 year attack on Dept. of Education, government-public education…intended to end public ed…in the end, education is to be provided on internet-no messy professor to contradict obvious historical revisionism…

    Youth today already blindly “believe” all they need to know is in their cellphones…

    of course you’ll never read any of this in U.S. media….and there are few enough of us who can explain, having taught around world…

  4. Tim Mason

    The differences in attainment between public and private schools are largely the result of differential intake (and retention). This has been public knowledge for decades, but the facts sink from view every time the media pick up on the question. This, from a recent American report on public vs private :

    “This study presents an answer to Coleman’s studies of private school effects. Once the full scope of the family is taken into account, cultural capital as well as economic capital, private school effects disappear. These findings suggest a need to maintain the focus on improving schools while also bolstering supports for low-income families, such as providing adequate health care and preventive care, better wages, and high-quality child care and preschool programs. Although families do make a considerable difference, the good news is that concerned parents are not unique to any race, religion, geographic region, or social class, and
    there are as many of them in urban areas as suburban areas. But families need a combination of economic and social supports, as well as high-quality public education, to ensure that their children can take advantage of the social contract our society makes through the institution of public schools.”

    Link : http://www.edline.com/uploads/pdf/PrivateSchoolsReport.pdf

    To my knowledge, similar results have been found in studies carried out in the UK, Australia, and France. A little digging will probably throw up many more.

    1. nonclassical

      ..what GOAL do you intend, Tim? Specifically, how many U.S. youth do you define should grad 4 year university or vocational equivalent?? Realize-today 18% of U.S. youth do so-number in Europe where I taught, is near 80%:

      http://www.afnorth-is.com/index-1.html

      ..also, you appear to ignore “private” systems which differ from public-Montessori, Waldorf, International, religious, “peace schools” such as this:

      http://www.oakgroveschool.com/

      check out 4 year university grad levels of various alternatives…and related GOALS-developing aptitude driven, non “CURVE” grading system related, successful education…

      do you not agree that when fewer than 10% CAN be grade successful (CURVE), GOALS are a problem?

      Our family patron is PhD grad, Physics-Chemistry, Stanford. He lost debate on this issue-prior, believed in CURVE grading…CURVE creates mediocrity-failure-not success.

    2. nonclassical

      ..by the way, Tim-local schools where we live include quite high 4 year university or vocational equivalent grad rate Bainbridge Island (home of current
      Governor Inslee), and poor schools Bremerton, North, South, Central Kitsap.

      If we exchange all students at Bainbridge Island High with those at South Kitsap,
      South Kitsap schools-instructors will then appear “successful”…and Bainbridge Island, failing, thereby refuting your “retention-differential intake” theory.

      You also ignore FACT U.S. primary schools lead the world…but middle-school ratings fall into upper teens, and secondary to 50′s…

      Note there is no direct link from U.S. secondary level, to university or vocational equivalent, per Europe…and European higher Ed. is FREE…

  5. Lambert Strether Post author

    When I was doing Campaign Countdown last summer, I was struck by how many stories could be thrown, with equal validity, into the “Charters” bucket, and the “Corruption” bucket. So I see this paper as a valuable contribution to the question of destroying public education through privatization, a process Bush began and Obama accelerated.

    1. nonclassical

      ..couldn’t agree more with Lambert..

      and obviously, the GOAL of U.S. ed. is “cheap labor force”, through non-aptitude based education, creating majority mediocrity or “failure”, by utilizing “CURVE” evaluation as method..

  6. charles sereno

    I’m amazed at the number of readers who seemed to have understood this article. After innumerable regressions and re-reading whole paragraphs, I gave up. In the end, I was most interested in the type of school the authors attended — obviously a type not conducive to clear thinking and expository skills.

    1. anon y'mouse

      it was poorly written. here’s what I got out of it, which may well be wrong:

      if dollars spent privately on ed. always results in better quality of ed. the graph shown would reflect this in that the more dollars spent on ed. privately vs. publically would result in higher scores on the test referenced. there would be a clear upward trend as private dollars increased.

      this is not true because some gov. ed. systems in some countries are very high quality. this leaves the educational “marketplace” to cater to those whose needs might not be fully met in the public system–perhaps disabled or special needs students.

      in our system, private dollars spent generally do equal better scores, but that is due to the social and cultural capital factors involved–higher SES people do tend to be better performers because of the things to which they are exposed OUTSIDE of school: museums, computers at home, private lessons and tutors, etcetcetc. our public ed. provides a generally middling-to-low “floor” which does not cater to these particular students, and they go to the private market which specializes in such students.

      what is highlighted in the article pointing out that the gov. determines the minimum quality of schooling (the “floor” not of cost) to be provided generally, and the market usually innovates around this. I fear that in a system like ours, giving up on public ed. would mean that the lower end (family like yours truly) would be reliant upon the McD’s version of schooling–filling, but with no nutritional content, or babysitting really.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        The bottom line is at that the bottom:

        [V]oucher schemes do not enhance overall equality of opportunities and efficiency in countries where governments supply high-quality education.

        So I’d like to see Diane Ravitch take that and run with it.

      2. nonlassical

        ..other countries “government ed.” includes wide varieties of learning alternatives, such as Montessori, Waldorf, International..each catering to different learning aptitudes…and with GOALS-direct relationship to 4 year university or vocational equivalent, supplied FREE.

        Yet again, how many 4 year university or vocational equivalent grads do you intend, as GOAL??

  7. impermanence

    There’s a major and minor criteria for education [universally].

    The primary criteria is, “Does the system of education create an environment that supports the elite stealing from everybody else.” This is [obviously] of utmost importance.

    Secondarily, “Does the system of education [effectively] train human beings to obey in the carrying-out of mindless activity, as well as, aid and abet [knowingly or not] in their own economic destruction.”

    Since both are these criteria are being met [in spades], the global system of education can be considered a huge success [and EXACTLY as it was intended].

  8. Jackson Bane

    ‘Gated communities and education provide for high quality?’
    The abstract is specious as the accompanying explanation. What does quality mean? Young adults eventually join the fire sector and get rich? What we are seeing with Rham Emanuel in Chicago, or Rhee and the neo-fascists in DC, and everywhere else is war, a parasitical indifference to larger society. Northwest DC has huge private schools and unbelivable wealth, (largely from the FIRE sector and the military) yet we’re to assume a voucher to destroy social contracts is overwrought emotionalism? The wealthy and so-called powerful amongst us are unschooled in the most important way, for they’ve replaced their souls with dollars and cents.

  9. allcoppedout

    We’re no doubt on the same side Lambert. I no longer believe in the education system at all and want to see a much fairer alternative. The school and university system is overbearingly academic and standards even in tbis are very low.
    I’m a cranky old ex-scientist and something of a believer (limited) in Fred Soddy’s ideas. I’d basically trash the curriculum and teach much more science and reasoning. The big snag here is what is taught in science classes and most people not being fitted to do what is currently taught. We need a scientific attitude that dares to treat received wisdom in the area with scorn (objective dispassion is one of science’s biggest myths).

    Education, like economics, fails because we don’t focus on what kind of society we want in designing the system to help to produce it, or get to the argument underneath Bacon’s Idols of prejudice.

    We might start with the frequency distribution of IQ as a heuristic (eventually IQ won’t do) and remember education is supposed to be for all and not a ranking exercise.

    Education is presumably not something devised to give teachers long holidays, a short working day, and have the places where most of our none personal childminding takes place open when most people would just have started work and shut an hour or so after we finish – and shut at weekends and at least three months of the year. Surely this isn;t the system we have! I know how hard some teachers work – this isn’t the point.

    Nearly all education research demonstrates one size does not fit all, early years are much more important than later, that features like food quality may have more effect than teaching – there are 100s of points that all need to be in our decision template – yet we have politicians stuck on telling us learning the 12 times table by 11 (I could do this party trick before school and was never any use to me)in an age in which bits of plastic with a battery can count far better than us.

    I expect I’m preaching to the converted – but seriously, improving school meals and teaching our kids to prepare and cook them would improve outcomes more than the futile tinkering of (hated by teachers) national curriculum.

    In the UK our private schools (“public”) produce 50% of our county cricket players and 37% of MPs against a 7% catchment. Typical day fees are £16K. The cricket thing is very interesting as one would not expect much advantage on talent for the rich – other than not having serious disadvantages like inadequate food. Meritocracy is a word we should not use without irony.

    Most non-science in our universities is still taught by lecture, set reading (rarely done) and about 6 hours a week of contact over 26-8 weeks. I know we do better sometimes, but these practices would have gone in a competitive, best practice situation years ago.

    In short, we have an obsolete, pre-modern system that is just like neo-classical economics in supporting the rich status quo. In fact, education derives from the Greek ‘to make like a duke’ – a matter we should take very seriously as a world full of dukes is an impossibility.

    Stupidity is left out of the educational calculus too (though we now have the RQ scale) and needs inclusion. Most people still fail this classic:
    Neil is watching Gabby who is watching Allan. Allan is married and Neil is not. Which of the following is the right answer in considering whether an unmarried person is watching a married person
    1. No
    2, Yes.
    3. Not enough information to decide.
    The question test tolerance of ambiguity. The answer is Yes and the reason is Gabby is either married or not. If she is married Neil (unmarried) is watching a married person. If Gabby is not married, she is the unmarried person watching a married one.
    Most people plump for ‘not enough information to decide’.

    One uses 100s of questions and situations – I’m fairly often stupid myself. The point is we are somehow teaching stupidity rather than avoiding it.

    What is the ‘educational content’ of most work situations? The real question being ‘why don’t we know’? I suspect, for instance, that the average sewing machinist needs more skill than the average banker. I know from my own experience (that has a lot of education in it) that I learned every job
    I did on the job, including research biochemistry, management and teaching.

    The education debate lacks facts, privileges existing education as ‘good’, fails to state what a decent system for all would be, relies on the farcical meritocracy ideology, bent performance standards …

    Most of all it leaves someone like me with ‘qualifications’ as a success when we could now allow everyone a decent life and the dignity and opportunity to do their best. The telling lunacy of the debate can be revealed by eating school meals (except in France where they are good) at 70 pence a day. We are guilty of the Idol of the theatre in the competitive race to the bottom. We are being had and need to start again.

    1. nonclassical

      allcopped,

      ..what we find internationally-Europe, is youth at 8th grade level work with counselor, parent, to define 3 aptitude driven goals. At 11th grade level, this
      reduces to 2. At that point, if one is “vocational” (4 year university or vocational equivalent), they apprentice on actual job. But all training is related to secondary ed., and FREE. This means GOAL is creation of taxpayers, rather than
      “cheap labor force”. It is eery speaking with secondary level sophomores who are already on course after graduation…few enough American youth have any idea what they will do beyond secondary, as 12th graders..

      Obviously, then, there is no intention of educating all to economic success in U.S. What is your GOAL?? How many should graduate 4 year university or vocational equivalent?

  10. F. Beard

    Come on folks! If we had an ethical money system we’d not have to beg for government jobs – including jobs in education.

    It’s kinda of pathetic too. The rich get to loot and the poor merely beg for decent jobs.

    1. nonclassical

      FB,

      ..in states Washington, Oregon, Idaho, circa 2005, average wage necessary for 4 person family existence was $40,000. per year..more in Western Washington, for example-less in Eastern. But TOTAL number of jobs actually PAYING $40,000. per year or more was 20% of jobs available…there is no intention to pay Americans-less all the time-these figures are nearly identical today, having risen, then declined.

      So, actual fact supports your thesis…

      By the way, both adult family members working provides that $40,000. per year, or higher…

  11. sleepy

    I’ve at both a Catholic high school and a public high school in a small (pop. 26,000) Iowa town. It was my impression as well as the community’s consensus that the public high school was far superior and more rigorous on the academic side of things.

  12. Moneta

    In Montreal, Qc, 1/3 of high school students attend private school.

    The government pays 60% of costs for private school students so the cash strapped government loves them. Parents all want their kids to get ahead… so they love them. So much for socialism… LOL!

    Anyway, the top rated private schools which are affordable have long waiting lists… I would have had to put my daughter on it when she was born. Stupid me for not socializing enough and not knowing in time… LOL again!

    Because of the parental insecurities, a whack of new expensive private schools have popped up in the last decade or two. But I am not convinced they are worth the price. The teachers are paid much less than in the public system with no pensions… Frankly, if you are a top-notch teacher why would you not go in a top public school with pension? So I opted for public.

    Some private schools are still very good, many are quite dubious. IMO, for 10-15K you can get quite a few excellent tutors.

  13. allcoppedout

    My grandson’s school claim they will have equipped him with 5 GCSEs when he is 16 next year. His chemistry teacher turned up at his job placement last week and took him for lunch (nice reasons – including he bloke being on strike). They do some good stuff.
    The idea that the content of 5 GCSEs equips anyone for work is a farce – it is a major target in the league tables. It will mean that our lad gets ranked above the 50% who don’t get them, just as the worthless degrees we issue give another ranking boost/damp squib.
    We have this stuff upside down. Specialist IT firms tell me they don’t care about module content, just the right ‘smarts’. The job skills are so specific beyond that they prefer to teach them on the job. To get education after 14 right we need the kids in jobs.
    Lambert’s references are largely from self-class interested academics. The ‘royal route’ through prep schools, private education, the right universities and so on is well known:
    A Family Business?: The Making of an International Business Elite by Jane F. Marceau (17 Dec 2009)
    The educational standards of private schools is not the point – it’s the privileged network.

    Standards have fallen so far in schools (‘real IQ’ as opposed to the nominal tested may have dropped by 15 points)that the rich can send even their duller kids through the system to graduation. Have a look at social mobility figures and those telling us poor kids get little financial gain from HE, but rich kids get a huge boost. Old farts like me at least didn’t have to compete with thick rick kids with degrees when we left university. Another big factor is course work as most of the assessment – a real advantage if Daddy pays an essay writing firm.

    PISA has long been at odds with government and educational lackey postures on how well we are doing. Education is a good, good, good, good, good – don’t be conned. Take a look at the Chinese ‘Ant People’ (book, several videos) – even their ‘booming economy’ doesn’t provide graduate jobs. And cheating in their system is rife.

  14. nonclassical

    ..”real IQ”…

    as Fichtelius and Sjolander (Finland) define, “intelligence exists largely outside the individual, and in inherent social structure of culture”…

    In other words, culture adapts to environment, economically, physically, and teaches individuals what buttons within culture to push…relevant buttons in U.S. do not accord with survival in Saudi Arabia, for example…

    1. anon y'mouse

      indeed, he laid out the plan for the privatization of private ed. in a propaganda piece dated from 1955 the name of which I can’t remember.
      the course has been laid for half a century or more, so why hasn’t there been more pushback prior to this? why do we allow these thinktank-types to catch us unawares, when frequently they publish their plans in advance?

    2. Lafayette

      And like everything else he innovated it depends upon Private Enterprise … because he could not think beyond Private Enterprise.

      A sad failing for a supposed “genius” … given the debacle of Private Enterprise in America today. (The rush to market consolidation has produced far too many oligopolies the result of which is solely to generate profits since competition is reduced to insignificance.)

  15. Hugh

    The PISA ratings depend on testing. The question is do these tests test intelligence, knowledge, test taking ability, or socio-economic level?

    What does private mean? Is a charter school public or private? Are Catholic, Christian evangelical, elite/wealthy, and alternate/wealthy schools all treated as private and undifferentiated?

    How does a voucher help a poor non-athletic student gain entrance to an elite private school for the children of the wealthy?

    Are such elite private schools about superior education or superior credentialing and networking?

    In the conclusion, for a US type education system, the author states “The policy menu should include improvement of public education standards as well as vouchers.” Is improving public education standards the same as improving public education? If the emphasis is on improving public education and a high quality education doesn’t need vouchers, then why include them?

    What is the purpose of education? I would argue that ideally it is about creating an informed citizenry, personal fulfillment and enrichment whether we are talking arts, sciences, or trades, and encouraging training in those areas deemed most needed and beneficial to society (not corporations and the corporate state). However, in a kleptocracy, the goals of education are very different. They are about social control, the maintenance of an overclass of the rich and elites, and the subjugation of the rest of us through limiting access to education, providing poor education to most of us, and pushing those who continue in the system into debt servitude.

  16. Lafayette

    The Economist ran an excellent article (called Catching On At Last) recently on how technology and education are intersecting (yet again), but how this time around the impact will be profound.

    It is well worth the reading if you missed it, here.

    The only issue is that its effectiveness is more noticeable at the lower level of secondary education, but less so in terms of tertiary education.

    But we shall see …

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