It is worth adding that the Conservatives, with their business-inspired vision of less successful schools being taken over by more successful ones, share this faulty assumption. In a sensible society schools would not all be trying to do the same thing: they would be trying to do many different things.
The reality is that school teachers actually feel under intense competitive pressures to do whatever it is to drive their schools up the league tables, and this is having a negative rather than a positive effect on education.
I agree that teachers are under pressure to push the school further up the league table. However, this is pressure to conform to outside imposed targets. In a market, the pressure is to create what people actually want, not what some government department thinks people should want.
The current situation is like trying to meet this month’s quota for tractor production. Its an arbitrary target which has little to do with what is actually desired or needed.
In a market the pressure is to produce something which enough people want to make it worthwhile. So whilst some people want tractors, they will want different things from their tractors. Different companies can specialise in different types of tractor, or they could divert their energy and capital to the production of a different type of farm machinery for which there is a demand.
Thus, competition is driven not by government targets and trying to do best at them, but by the demands of the customer, and the customers are not a homogeneous group with the same desires and expected outcome.
Schools would then be able to specialise. Some people may prefer a school which gets very high grades at GCSE above any other considerations. Others may prefer a school which has a broader focus, or which specialises in a particular subject area. There are any number of considerations.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Liberty Alone on competition in education
Writing about some comments from the admirable Matthew Huntbach, Liberty Alone gets it just right: