Looking Abroad for Hope


HT despair.com. Looking for a Christmas idea to suit the new reality? Why not a despair.com gift certificate – “For the person who has everything, but still isn’t happy.”

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Looking around for something to give me hope this morning, I find the best place to turn (for today, at least) is outside the U.S. Specifically, I turn to the recently released study in Education Next by Martin West and Ludger Woessmann finding that around the world, private school enrollment is associated with improved educational outcomes in both public and private schools, as well as lower costs.

Well-informed education wonks will say, “duh.” A large body of empirical research has long since shown, consistently, that competition improves both public school and private school outcomes here in the U.S., while lowering costs. And the U.S. has long been far, far behind the rest of the world in its largely idiosyncratic, and entirely irrational, belief that there’s somthing magical about a government school monopoly.

And private school enrollment is an imperfect proxy for competition. It’s OK to use it when it’s the best you’ve got. I’ve overseen production of some studies at the Friedman Foundation that used it this way, and I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t think the method were acceptable. However, that said, it should be remembered that some “private schools” are more private than others. In many countries, private school curricula are controlled – sometimes almost totally so – by government. And the barriers to entry for private schools that aren’t part of a government-favored “private” school system can be extraordinary.

That said, this is yet another piece of important evidence pointing to the value of competition in education, recently affirmed (in the context of charter schools, but still) by Barack Obama. Who I understand is about to resign his Senate seat – I guess all those scandals and embarrasing Chicago machine connections the MSM kept refusing to cover finally caught up with him.

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