Markets in Education; an analytical review of empirical research on market mechanisms in education
From Antidote News – November 2010
OECD wonders why competition has little impact on schools
.A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) explores the reasons why increasing parent choice and competition does not significantly improve schools, according to research reports.
Not only are any impacts from increased competition very small, the report says, but they are highly inconsistent. They are often ‘limited to some grades, some groups of students or some measures and tests.’
In Sweden, new competition measures were found to have positive effects when measured in one way, but not in others. And one study of Charter Schools in the United States showed that while 46% of students performed equally well, 37% performed worse.
Further, there are no studies indicating that increased competition leads to innovation in the classroom.
Among the explanations for these findings thrown up by the report are that:
•The social makeup of a school and its reputation influence choice more than the quality of education it provides
•Changes made in response to parental demand, such as emphasizing discipline, uniforms and exam results, may have no impact on teaching and learning: competition, in other words, is more likely to stimulate traditional rather than innovative methods
•Competition often leads to investment in marketing rather than in improving the quality of the education
•Responses to incentives primarily related to competitive pressure may be no different to responses to incentives resulting from government interventions
•Competition has to exceed a certain threshold before it can affect parental behaviour
•New schools entering the market are unlikely to be inherently different from existing schools
‘These patterns of findings,’ the report concludes, ‘are consistent with the body of knowledge in school improvement, which shows that external adaptations are much easier to make for schools than adaptations to the ‘hard core’ of the school, that is, the quality of teaching and learning. All in all, there is little evidence that the introduction of market mechanisms in education is more effective in reaching this core of education than are other policy interventions.’
Markets in Education; an analytical review of empirical research on market mechanisms in education, by Professor Dr Sietske Waslander, Cissy Pater and Maartje van der Weide is published by the the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (EDU/WKP(2010)15 and can be downloaded from www.oecd.org.