Thursday —— Education competition is not less

According to Miguel Ouellette, encouraging competition among schools by adopting an “education voucher” approach, as well as handing over the management of certain public schools to the private sector, will improve the quality of education as well as better cost control. (Photo: 123RF)

Guest Blog. This week, the École ensemble movement made headlines in several media outlets for canceling funding for private secondary schools, forcing students to go to schools in their neighborhoods and proposing reforms to the “unjust” Quebec education system to prevent competition within schools. While the motive behind their movement is noble, the solutions simply miss the mark. If we want to make the quality of education accessible to all, we must succeed by encouraging competition, not by limiting it.

As an economist, I also often notice that many people understand the benefits of competition in many areas, but when we talk about Quebec’s education, health and day-care services, our basic economic concepts seem to be on the edge. However, it is possible to fully guarantee that everyone will have access to services due to transfers and subsidies from government to individuals, while leaving the management of institutions to the private sector.

A two-tier system

In Quebec, about 10% of students go to a private educational institution. Among private schools, about 65% receive government grants, equivalent to about 60% of public sector schools for education services. The reasons why parents send their children to the private sector are wide-ranging: better supervision, special programs, quality education, etc. Whether these factors are justified or not will not prevent us from seeing that the current structure of secondary schools contributes to the increase of social inequality.

Indeed, it is not unreasonable that Quebec research has found that one in two students enrolled in a regular high school program (49%) reached CEGEP, while the proportion of young people in private reading reached 94%. Secondary school. To make matters worse, 15% of general public access university studies are young, compared to 60% in the private sector.

So there is currently a two-pronged system: those who go to the public and those who can afford to go privately. However, despite this observation, the École ensemble movement proposes to exacerbate the problem by reducing funding in private schools and sending all schoolgirls from the same public network to their neighboring schools, even if the latter yields less good results. Why not stop funding all of Quebec’s educational institutions, whether public or private, and instead fund parents so that they can make the best choices for their children and provide them with a way out?

Swedish model

In Sweden, since the early 1990s, there has been an “education voucher” type system: schools receive an amount for each student they manage to attract. In other words, the money goes after the student! This freedom of choice means that schools – public or private – are in direct competition with each other. So their managers have an advantage in seeing their progress and finding new ways to meet the needs of students and their parents, since the latter are free to choose another school without the condition of sending their children to a nearby school. Education is universally funded and schools must follow the national curriculum.

In this Scandinavian country, the egalitarian system where children have to go to a certain school is over, even if it does not provide quality education and does not meet the specific needs of certain children. And it has ended the two-tier system where only wealthy parents can send their children to private schools. In Sweden, it gives parents much more freedom of choice, where schools provide incentives for improvement. Above all, consumers voting on their feet forces restaurants, hotels and shops to differentiate themselves and find ways to attract customers. The principle is the same in education: greater competition will lead to better conditions than at present.

Thus, encouraging competition among schools by adopting the “education voucher” system, in addition to handing over the management of some public schools to the private sector, will improve the quality of education as well as better cost control. The École ensemble movement exposes a number of problems in our education system, but it should not be militarized for Quebec to take more unequal and inefficient measures. Instead, let’s ensure greater freedom of choice for parents and end this two-tier system that promotes social inequality.

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