Education: A Golden Age

“The education sector’s structure and policies will change more in the next 3 years than they changed in the last 2,500 years”

China as space power

Shenzhou 7 launch


2008/09/26 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Vouchers and school choice: India looking to Sweden

Guncharan Das: Fund children, not schools

The most striking lesson for India is from Sweden’s education reforms in the early 1990s. They decentralized the system–shifting control of schools from the centre to the municipalities—and gave parents a choice to send their children to state or private schools (but paid by the state with a voucher). As a result, many innovative, for-profit schools have opened up, who compete for the vouchers. The number of students in private schools has gone up ten fold, from less than one to over ten percent.

One of the most successful is a chain of 30 private schools, which encourages children to learn in small groups and lets them progress at their own speed. Children spend 15 minutes each week with a tutor, reviewing last week’s progress, and agreeing to next week’s goals. This information goes up on the website for parents’ review. Successful teachers earn bonuses based on the children’s performance. 90% of the parents stated in a recent survey that “school choice” and competition have improved the overall quality of education. The poorest are the happiest for their children can now go to the best schools for free. The ability to exit a bad school gives a poor child the same chance as a rich one to rise in the world.

Sweden’s school model is made for India, where government schools have failed, teacher absenteeism is rampant, and there is no accountability to parents or the community. As a result even the poor are withdrawing their kids from state schools and putting them into cheap private schools (that charge Rs 100-200 per month). If any politician in India were to advocate Sweden’s model–fund children, don’t fund schools—poor parents would be so grateful that the politician would never lose his seat. The poorest child would have the same opportunity as a middle class one, and government schools would improve because teachers’ salaries would be paid by parents’ vouchers. It would be a Diwali everyday!

In Sweden, the Left’s initial hostility has also diminished. Social Democrat politicians do not dare criticise what is popular with voters. Teachers are happier as they have more opportunities to change schools. Government’s budgets have not been hurt by having to finance children in private schools because municipalities have managed to close or cut expenses of the lower performing government schools.

Sweden’s school reforms are a good example of what is attractive about the Scandinavian model. Unlike India, it is not riddled with red tape, nor is it hostile to private enterprise. Yet, it gives the state an important role in setting a socially responsible context within which private enterprise flourishes. In the case of schooling, the Swedish government provides the resources and sets some basic guidelines — and then lets the private sector go to work. It is the perfect public-private partnership.

2008/09/26 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

John Stossel classic

2008/09/25 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

School choice in Britain

2008/09/18 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Petrilli on school system bailouts

In the education sector, too, there’s a history of bailing out organizations deemed “too big to fail.” That’s why states have come to the rescue of huge urban districts, long after they have demonstrated an utter inability to get results or balance their books. It’s only the small fry–tiny, public charter schools–that ever actually go under. As well they should, if they aren’t getting the job done for kids or aren’t spending public funds prudently.

The Detroit Public Schools is the AIG of education. It’s big, it’s bad, and it’s broken. And while its ship sinks, board members and superintendent squabble over “rudeness.” Is there any reason to believe that current governance arrangements, political dynamics, and leadership are conducive to the systemic transformation needed to save Motown’s children from a life of despair?

What’s needed is a fresh start, a do-over, a clean slate for Detroit. Simply put, the state should declare Detroit Public Schools bankrupt. (Just today it declared its intent to oversee its finances.) The Michigan legislature took over in 1999 but returned the city to an elected school board in 2005 without making fundamental changes; now’s their chance to get it right.

Michigan should take the system into receivership and void or renegotiate all of its contracts (including its collective-bargaining agreements with teachers and sundry other unions). It should slice through any red tape that would keep Detroit from creating a world-class system, including Michigan’s cap on new charter schools and its burdensome teacher-certification requirements, not to mention its low academic standards. It should recruit a fearless leader to build, from the bottom-up, a strong curriculum, a culture of excellence, back-office and human resource routines that work–all the elements of a functioning organization. Such an organization would give the public the transparency around spending, processes, and results that has been so lacking on Wall Street lately, and lacking in most big-city school systems forever.

Instead, lawmakers will likely infuse DPS with yet more cash in order to (once again) bring the district out of insolvency. And they will try to “protect” the system by keeping additional charter-school competitors out. (Clearly, Governor Jennifer Granholm’s interest in making Michigan more “competitive” doesn’t extend to its public schools.)

Americans are understandably growing impatient with government bailouts of Wall Street. When will we become just as frustrated with government bailouts of dysfunctional public-school systems?

2008/09/18 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

The three education sector evils

(Jay Mathews quote)

* District bureaucracies

* Schools of education

* Teacher unions

2008/09/18 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Barack Obama: Education speech in Dayton, OH

Obama describes the domestic and global gaps so well… but then goes on to emphasize the policies and structures that caused the problems as the vehicles that should be used for closing the gaps??  When will Obama get that the current system cannot be improved, only replaced?  How about the demand of students/parents – not DC or State-level bureaucrats – driving the allocation of funds (based on performance data that will continue to become more detailed and more accessible)??

2008/09/11 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment