Markets and School Quality

Andrés Velasco, Project Syndicate, Sept 30, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This article is much better in its articulation of the criticisms of private schools than it is in offering a resolution. Former Chilean presidential candidate Andrés Velasco explores three areas of criticism (quoted):

  • if everything – including education – is for sale, those who have more money will buy more of it.
  • education markets perform poorly... markets run into trouble when what is bought and sold cannot be observed or measured.
  • education can be degraded by being sold and bought... market incentives change behavior in socially damaging ways.

These are all good points and I would contend that the private sector has not addressed any of them adequtely. But Velasco suggests "it makes sense to consider how to combine the virtues of both systems, instead of simply choosing between them." He cites a recent paper that argues "for-profits appear to be at their best with well-defined programs of short duration that prepare students for a specific occupation." How does this address these three points? We don't know.

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