Greater freedom and choice in education is not only being called for here in Washington, D.C. and across the country, but is in demand across the globe. It is apparent in both developed and developing nations that simply throwing federal dollars at education programs is not a viable solution. The Economist has an article explaining a new report (from UNESCO) “Reaching the Marginalized” on education in developing nations.
The report profiled the failings of publicly funded school systems in poor nations: not enough children attending school, poor academic achievement, and high rates of teacher absenteeism. When teachers were present, many were found to be…not teaching. What is needed then to improve educational programs? According to the report: More choice! More freedom!
Private-sector educational institutions in poor and developing countries regularly outperform tax-payer-funded public education, specifically when teachers’ salaries were based on performance. It’s a matter of simple incentives and accountability. Instead of leaving the children high-and-dry, the teachers show up. More choice and freedom in education opens up more space for dialogue between school teachers/administrators and the ‘customer,’ the families of the students. Think of it as a free-market of education. Families choose a product (a school) based on performance that will provide their children with the greatest opportunity to succeed.
Performance-related pay made a significant impact in public schools as well. In one test of teacher accountability in 300 state-run schools in India, the higher pay for deserving teachers was three times as effective in increasing test scores as putting the same amount of money towards teaching materials.
In developing nations, where situations can be dire, schools which meet the needs and standards of families and children are essential. Instituting now what is proven to work will help solidify a foundation of success.