The state oversight of private and parochial education is likely to increase slowly, especially along the lines of uniformity in statistics and records, sanitary inspection, common standards of work, and the enforcement of the attendance laws. In particular, the attitude toward the control of the child is likely to change. Each year the child is coming to belong more and more to the state, and less and less to the parent. - Ellwood P. Cubberley 1909
Friday, June 1, 2012
Learning From International Experience When It Comes To Education
In Korea they have a vibrant private school market known as hagwons or, less formally, cram schools. Despite vocal government support for their public schools, many parents (and most notably those who are teachers and government officials) send their children to these after school schools so that they can have a competitive advantage over other students.
A writer for The Korea Times put it this way, "This sort of parents' love for their children has been passed down from time immemorial. Forcing humans born with genes responsible for competition not to compete never works by any means in all ages and countries."
Where has this private attitude put Korea in terms of the market? The Korean firm Samsung Electronics is on a fast track, while the Finnish company Nokia, based in a country whose public education is ranked number one in the world, is in decline. There is almost no private education in Finland and all teachers are free to choose their own curriculum. Public education in Korea has lots of problems, but overall the country is benefitting from a pairing of is public and private education.
Turning back to America and what we can learn from observing these two countries' experience with education, consider the Obama administration's position on the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) which provides vouchers to allow D.C. students to attend more successful private schools. His latest budget did not include money to start any new students in this program which has been widely acknowledged as successful in improving graduation rates and somewhat improving student performance. The money currently leftover money in the program is enough to fund its existing participants through the end of high school. The result of this decision by the administration will be to force students back into the public school system. The rationale? They want better schools for all students, not just the voucher-earning elite.
The Administration chants the old mantra that the best way to improve public education is by increasing funding for public schools and this won't happen if everyone wants to run to private schools. This is the equivalent of the toddler who keeps putting his hand back on the stove to see if "hot" feels any less painful.
Valerie Jarrett, one of the President's closest advisers, called him the smartest man she knows. If he is, then he will look at what has been successful in other places and promote those things here. But we see that, unlike Finland which does not have a national set of education standards, this administration supports the development of national standards. National testing, school ranking lists and inspection systems do not exist in Finland. They are being added daily in the U.S. Korea has a robust private sector which fills in what the public sector cannot cover, while we try to make the public school be everything to the child and family via the community school push. It looks like we are in for a world of hurt and I'm not sure that's the smartest thing to do.