State and education

Professor James Tooley, interviewed in this segment, studied how the very poor get education in India, Africa and China. The majority of those families, who earn just a few dollars a week, choose low-cost private schools over free government-run schools. He reports that their kids get better education from the less-qualified and less-paid private teachers than from their government counterparts, for about a dollar a week.

In Why millions of the world's poor still choose to go private, economist Tim Harford also mentions Tooley and points to similar studies on private healthcare for the very poor. He explains this by the incentives and accountability provided by private ownership.

Throughout the show, Stossel pertinently questions the American public education system, on the basis of quality, price and principle, also pointing at the incentive problem. Other things being comparable (kids, neighborhood, etc.), charter schools perform better and cost less than government- and union-run schools.

Education is not different from other goods and services; there is no reason not to let the private sector provide it, on the contrary. As with any centrally planned service, the problem of economic calculation in the absence of private property re-surfaces resulting in political rather than rational allocation of resources. Were they private initiatives, money sinks like "No child left behind" and "Head start" would have been canceled already, making room for better programs.

The only rationale left for public school is universal coverage. But as we know from many examples, the free market better solves this problem by democratizing services to the masses and serving the remaining unfortunates with the help of charities. And it does so without incurring all the downsides of socialized education.

As a step towards complete separation of education and state, Stossel advocates a voucher system to regain some of the benefits of the private sector. Such vouchers have been shown to be successful, in randomized experiments, yet politicians still oppose them.

[cross-posted on posterous]

Posted by Julien on February 21, 2010. Permalink
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In Australia thereīs a problem too, which is actually encouraging poor families to put their children into private schools - the private schools recieve more funding than the public schools. I donīt understand how governments can see this as being realistic? I wasnīt aware of the families putting their children into private schools in China, India and Africa - it seems so obsurd, I just canīt comprehend why?

Posted by: Briefgold at March 2, 2010 05:04 AM

A universal public school offers a great variety of different characters from kids from different classes that can learn from each other. Only private schools would lead to the seperation of the kids from beginning on - na chance to ever get to know "each" other.

Posted by: Ben at March 4, 2010 08:50 AM

Hi Ben, there is no reason to assume that diversity would be different in private schools than in public schools today.
In a public school system, houses in some neighborhoods becomes more expensive because of the good reputation of the district school.

In other words, the choice of school system does not itself cause or hamper diversity of culture.

Also, I believe that parents who, like you, believe that diversity is important in building a child's character would pick schools who provide this. This could be a selling point and opportunity for smart school owners, for example, by offering discounts or free scholarship to some kids from different neighborhoods or countries.

Posted by: Julien Couvreur at March 4, 2010 09:58 AM

Yes. Only private schools would lead to the seperation of the kids from beginning on - na chance to ever get to know "each" other.

Posted by: Muskelaufbau at March 6, 2010 09:58 AM

I am suprise and amazed how parents from India, China and Africa are managing to provide better school opportunities for their children,especially with such a low income. They should be proud of themselves and we should take them as an example and improve our education system. UK in theory offers public schools that should have the same education's quality like the private ones, reallity proves something complitely different.
Goverments in many countries should have a look at the education system and improve it. So our children would have similar chances for better future, no matter if after graduating private or public school.

Posted by: Phoeobe Partnerschaft at March 16, 2010 01:45 AM

I am suprise and amazed how parents from India, China and Africa are managing to provide better school opportunities for their children,especially with such a low income. They should be proud of themselves and we should take them as an example and improve our education system. UK in theory offers public schools that should have the same education's quality like the private ones, reallity proves something complitely different.
Goverments in many countries should have a look at the education system and improve it. So our children would have similar chances for better future, no matter if after graduating private or public school.

Posted by: Phoeobe Partnerschaft at March 16, 2010 01:46 AM

I am suprise and amazed how parents from India, China and Africa are managing to provide better school opportunities for their children,especially with such a low income. They should be proud of themselves and we should take them as an example and improve our education system. UK in theory offers public schools that should have the same education's quality like the private ones, reallity proves something complitely different.
Goverments in many countries should have a look at the education system and improve it. So our children would have similar chances for better future, no matter if after graduating private or public school.

Posted by: Phoebe Partnerschaft at March 16, 2010 01:46 AM

It is really really amazing how these parents from poor countries are able to provide such an education for their children. I am also of the opinion that this should be a hint for politicans and governments in many countries to think about the school system in general

Posted by: Chrissi at March 16, 2010 03:22 AM

Scratch India off the list. They just passed mandatory K-9 education with state subsidies.

Posted by: Terry Thorsen at April 8, 2010 09:22 PM
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