The business rhetoric behind the push for promoting competition and a market for schools, is that parental choice will ensure that schools are responsive to the wishes of parents. Schools will therefore have to increase the quality of education they offer and provide it at less cost in order to survive, thus stimulating more innovative and more efficient provision.
However, the concept of giving parents choice does not extend beyond the choice between the available range of schools in their neighbourhood (often a very limited range). If they don’t like the way the school is run all they can do is remove their children from it (provided there is an alternative school available). This is very different from being able to participate in school decision-making and the design of curricula or having a voice through parental representatives on a governing board. In practice parental choice of schools is a very weak form of participation and expression.
Genuine participation and representation enables parents to protest, discuss, negotiate, vote and work with the school to shape the school to meet parental goals. In fact some of those promoting school choice and educational markets have spurned democratic control of schools as leading to inefficient bureaucracies and coercion by public authorities.
The concept of an education market and parental choice encourages parents to think about how to give their own children an advantage rather than what is good for all children, or good for society.
Marketisation erodes the ability of democracies to debate and deliberate on the goals of education and “what constitutes a minimally ‘good’ education” that should be available to all children. The market, rather than an elected government, decides which schools will prosper and which go into decline through lack of enrolments and therefore lack of funds.
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