>The future of education

>Milton Friedman (a famous American economist) once advocated a privatized system of education where every new born child receives a certain number of vouchers that can be redeemed at any educational institution right up till PHD level. This would give parents a choice of whether to spend all the vouchers getting their child into a world class school like Eton, or spending the vouchers getting their children into a moderate school but still having some vouchers left over to fund higher education. Though of course parents would be able to spend extra money on top of the vouchers.

Is this a good idea or should education be solely administered by the state?

Any other ideas for educational reform are also welcome (from any country).

7 comments

  • >Even if the vouchers were means tested (and I doubt, knowing Friedman, that they would be), the very fact that people could 'top up' with additional funds means that the problem of a wealthy, self-perpetuating elite buying the best education and accompanying status remains. Which, given Friedman's utterly anti-social political philosophy, is hardly surprising. In short, it is as close to a pointless idea as you can find in politics: it is a gimmicky and costly way of preserving the status quo using government initiative, which is oddly un Friedman-ian.Fundamentally, education is not a commodity to be bought and sold. I'm too much of a social liberal to abolish private schooling, but I would introduce a heavily-progressive income tax up to about 70-80% for the highest earners, much of which should be ploughed into state education until they are of the same standard as the best private ones. As a consequence, private schooling should wither and die.Whatever your viewpoint on education, Friedman's idea would alter nothing.

  • >In addition, by forcing institutions to accept two forms of tender Friedman would create a two-tier system of payment. Institutions would inevitibly favour those who could offer ready money (i.e. the rich) rather than cash in state vouchers.Furthermore, in this hybrid system (it is in no true sense privatized) the state is an investor and would surely demand input into curricula, syllabuses, standards etc. which may well be very different from the other investors (i.e. private individuals paying for their kids' education). Those interests will, inevitably, collide and it won't be awfully pretty or productive in the struggle to come out on top.The more you think about what he was proposing, the more absurd, unfair and unworkable it gets.

  • >I think you could easily make it a legal requirement that educational institutions accept the vouchers. Hence it need not create a 2 tier system of payment.It does allow for richer pupils to get into better schools but to be honest isn't that already the case? I can't think of anyone who could fund their children through Eton. But would it make the system more based on money than it is already? Yes I think you're right there that it definitely would. So in sum total I agree with you that Friedman's idea is a bad one. We need to work towards equality of opportunity, and Friedman's ideas would not do that.However there are two things on which his idea does well: it would get more funding into education, and it would allow individual schools more control over how they go about their business. You said that the state as an investor, would want more of a say than it has already. But this is not true. For by giving out vouchers the state is never in negotiation with the schools; the parents and students are. If a school did what the government asked it would not receive any more funding under this system.So on whole yes you're right that it wasn't his best idea. However it is not completely ridiculous. There is logic, and also ideas to be taken into consideration e.g. devolving more power to schools would be a good idea; and finding a way to increase private funding without all the problems that go with it would be very desirable; and some people would argue that this system would make schools far more competitive and productive than the existing League Tables in the UK make them.

  • >I think the voucher system is just as good an idea as the current subsidised tertiary education system.Like Rob states, I can see some detrimental effects but none too different as to the current negative aspects of today's system.I really think that the "Future of Education" needs to be much more radical than just how the govt pays for it.I think that the raising of the school leaving age is silly and only heightens and prolongs the problems of those who do not enjoy or excel at school. It is like trying to solve the dilemma of putting square pegs into round holes by pushing harder.I am for many forms of decentralization, and education could also benefit from this. I would like education to become more community based with the community's elderly population heavily involved.I don't envisage one school being able to accomodate a students learning needs and think that there should be a series of specialist schools which the student should move between according to his desires.These schools would mainly be funded by the government, but there is also room for private training establishments, such as the English schools in foreign countries, which makes for a good counter example to Ross' argument that wealth buys a better education. The private language schools in foreign countries do market themselves as superior, better, etc, like all products. But in reality there is not much difference between them as English instruction is not the worlds most advanced topic and extra money does not buy extra education in this field.With the exceptions of schools located in low decile communities in Britain, I can't see why this kind of situation shouldn't be the standard amongst other skill sets taught by schools also.

  • >Community involvement is definitely a good idea. At present I would stake a bet that a majority of schools in the Western world are almost completely cut off from the community in real terms. School children don't know what jobs people do in their local areas. They don't know who cleans up the mess they make when they litter the streets, and as for the elderly, most children probably never see anyone other than their own grandparents.But the problem with your solution of having many specialist schools that students can jump between on different days or even lessons within days requires millions of new schools accross the world. They would have to be built close enough to existing ones so that students could feasibly travel from one place to another. I don't think there's one country in the world (wait, except maybe really small countries like Luxembourg) that has the funding to build that many new, good schools. In addition there are many rural places where there simply aren't enough pupils to justify new schools. So nice idea but I'm afraid the problem is in fact funding.P.S. I agree with not raising the school leaving age. Students at 16-18 years old work a lot harder because they don't have those who don't want to be there wasting everyone's time.

  • >It's not a good idea to listen to any idea Mr Friedman proposes. This is the man who advised George Bush and other countries that totally unfettered capitalism was essential. See where that led us! When asked what went wrong he said he had not considered people's greed. Obviously does not share the same world as the rest of us.

  • >I think it's a little unfair to say that he's always wrong. Most famous academics are extremists, and therefore say some very radical stuff. Yet they become famous not for their stupidity but for their intelligence. In Friedman's case he advanced the field of economics a great deal. See the essay on him on the Economics page. It was he who realised that high inflation could not keep unemployment low indefinitely. His theory of monetarism could be argued to go too far. On this I agree with you. His views about human psychology were certainly inadequate. But Monetarism does fit many problems better than did Keynesianism. And although he was too fond of the ability of the market to solve every problem, he did not believe in "unfettered Capitalism", for he did not think that pure Capitalism existed. Hence although there are weaknesses with his theories there are strengths too.Politicians should know how to take the advice of different academics. Were Obama President when Friedman was giving out advice he would have been clever enough to take the ideas with a pinch of salt. He would have consulted other economists and built up a more rounded perspective. The problem in my opinion is therefore two-fold: Friedman advanced his ideas too far, and Bush was unable to see this.

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