Many people claim that government must educate, because otherwise the poor would not be able to afford education for their children.
The only problem with this theory is the facts.
There can hardy be any educator in America who is unfamiliar with the “achievement gap.”
No informed educator should be ignorant of the colossal failures of government schools to fix that gap. Kansas City tried; Camden, N.J. tried. Both spent massive amounts, which were frittered away on non-teaching activity, and resulted in no improvements in learning. This is a story which has been told over and over, with variations, for generations.
What you might not know is that government failure is a universal constant. Every country has problems; massive spending has been of no value, the world around.
Two things have been of value: small, autonomous revolts against the status quo, led by the likes of Correa, Gatto, Escalante, and Benezet – bold pioneers who were hastily shut down by the educational system. Some cynics think that success is not desired. I prefer to think that bureaucracies strongly resist change, even positive change; and that tax-funded monopolies have almost no incentive to improve. Better schools would hire fewer paper pushers.
The second thing of value is when parents are free to pull their children and their dollars from under-performing schools – a choice denied to most in Western society.
But this choice is being exercised by many thousands of parents and children in the developing world. Anybody who wishes to be educated in these countries – poor or not – chooses private education, not the government.
Unlike many armchair warriors, James Tooley and his teams examined thousands of such schools, and interviewed and tested 32,000 students. The conclusions are plain: parent-funded schools in many countries in the developing world are better and cheaper than competing government schools. “Free” government schools do not educate more students; they pull students from better alternatives.
One other result of Tooley’s study: governments choose to be unaware of many thousands of private schools. Most researchers seldom leave their air-conditioned offices, and rely heavily upon lists from bureaucrats who have strong incentives to under-report – to not even notice – the successes of their competitors. The parent-funded revolution in the developing world has, in consequence, been invisible to many bureaucrats and researchers and pundits.
If you only count students at government schools, increased spending and recruitment may look like an improvement – especially if you refuse to even admit that thousands of non-government schools exist. When it is admitted that “free” government schools are simply moving students from one sort of school to another, the “improvements” vanish. This is even more so when the students are merely shifted from superior private schools to inferior government schools.
I have written quite a bit about these issues. Please explore the tags at the bottom of this post. Cheers!