8 thoughts on “Does the government spend far too much on education?”

  1. Posted 16/05/2014 at 14:22 | Permalink

    Vouchers must be the way forward, surely?

    The irony is that we have these for nurseries for 3 and 4 year old children, the system works exactly as well as you would expect, it just seems “normal”. The nursery sorts it out with the council and knocks it off your bill.

    There’s a political point that it might seem “wrong” to give parents vouchers if they send their children to £20,000-plus a year private or public school. But those parents are not actually paying for education but for status. That “education” does not benefit society at all, it just leads to an ever smaller clique running the country.

    So to head that one off at the past we could (for example) have a basic voucher amount of £5,000 per child, payable by the council straight to the school, but that amount is tapered, depending on average fees charged by that school (before deducting vouchers), so if the school charges £12,500, the voucher is reduced to £2,500 and if the school charges £20,000 per child, the voucher is reduced to £nil.

  2. Posted 16/05/2014 at 14:55 | Permalink

    @Mark Wadsworth A major problem with vouchers is that political and bureaucratic control would inevitably come attached to state funding. This could be a particular problem for private schools, which could see their independence further eroded. They may only teach say 7 per cent of pupils, but they have disproportionate economic importance.

    Moreover, a great deal of resource misallocation would remain under a voucher system. Much of the government funding would represent a very poor investment, for the reasons explained in the article.

  3. Posted 16/05/2014 at 15:09 | Permalink

    No system is perfect, its a question of “is a proposal better or worse than what we’ve got now?”

    1. My £5,000 suggested amount clearly means that most schools will charge some top up fees, even if it’s only £1,000 or £2,000 a year. Once parents have to start paying that difference in cash, theyll suddenly become very “invested” in whether the school is doing a good job. People value things much more if they pay for them.

    2. As a bonus, and ot prevent good state schools merely pushing up house prices, it seems fair enough for good state schools to charge top up fees as well, thus nicely blurring the distinction between state, private and free school.

    3. Of course some conditions will be attached. I don’t see why I as a taxpayer should be funding a madrassah, and there’s nothing wrong with a safety inspector going in once a year to change that the wall in the changing room isn’t about to collapse and kill some poor child. But that is a separate issue to vouchers as well, my kids go private and I’d expect their schools to have the odd inspection by the council as well. It’s all a question of fact and degree.

    4. A separate issue is, up to what age should children be compelled to go to a school or attend some formal training, be it academic or practical? Most would agree “somwhere between 15 and 18”. Clearly, if 18 year olds are getting vouchers to do A-levels, we could pay the equivalent amount as wage subsidies to 18 year olds doing an apprenticeship, no harm in that.

    5. A bit of “one size fits all” never went amiss, it build the team spirit, national identity etc, as does “shared suffering”. Making all children wear the same uniform is part of that. School uniforms are horrible, but at least everybody can agree on it.

  4. Posted 16/05/2014 at 17:45 | Permalink

    @Mark Wadsworth – These proposals involve a high degree of political prescription and would retain high levels of taxpayer subsidy. Resources would still be misallocated on a grand scale, though I accept there could be benefits compared with the current system.

    On more specific issues, the madrassah question demonstrates how a voucher system could become horribly politicised. I’m sure schools teaching environmentalist propaganda in five different subjects would still get state funding.

    I disagree with your point on compulsion. What of those children who are wasting their time at school, or find it insufferable for other reasons?

    Finally, building national identity and inflicting ‘shared suffering’ sounds terribly collectivist and far from desirable. Isn’t there a danger that individuality will be suffocated, as Ivan Illich warned?

  5. Posted 17/05/2014 at 06:47 | Permalink

    Crikey, I didn’t mean National Service and forced marches!! I meant things like singing the National Anthem, a truly dreadful and dreary tune, but everybody suffers equally. Or all kids eating the same school dinner or wearing the same uniform.

  6. Posted 17/05/2014 at 10:52 | Permalink

    Finland wikipedia. That’s how to do education0

  7. Posted 17/05/2014 at 15:42 | Permalink

    @anna – At least in Finland the compulsory element is for a shorter period than in the UK, but the misallocation of resources is still a major problem in that system. And what about the negative economic effects of the very considerable tax bill?

    @Mark Wadsworth – Clearly many parents would prefer it if their children did not engage in ‘nationalist’ activities and did not have to eat the same school dinners as their fellow pupils (for example, vegetarians, vegans, religious groups). This is another reason to support a voluntary approach that allows a high degree of market segmentation.

  8. Posted 19/05/2014 at 12:27 | Permalink

    Very concise argument in favour of market segmentation for education.

    I wrote an article to argue that the quality of education would be far superior without government getting involved and spending in making everyone study the same curriculums.
    Here it is if anyone is interested:

    Go to a private school or study Russell Brand?


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