According to Miguel Ouellette, encouraging competition between schools by adopting the “education voucher” system while handing over the management of some public schools to the private sector will promote the improvement of the quality of education as well as more good cost control. (Image: 123RF)
GUEST BLOG. This week, the École ensemble event made headlines in several media outlets by proposing to reform Quebec’s “unfair” education system by eliminating funding for private secondary schools, forcing students to attend their neighborhood schools and curb competition between schools. Even if the intentions behind their action are noble, the solutions are unmarked. If we want to increase the quality of education while making it accessible to all, it is not by limiting competition that we will succeed, but by encouraging it.
As an economist, I have always noticed that many people understand the benefits of competition in many sectors, but when we talk about education, health and daycare services in Quebec, our basic economic ideas seem to go on the edge. However, it is entirely possible to guarantee that everyone has a way to get the services thanks to transfers and subsidies from the government to individuals, while entrusting the management of the operations of private sector establishments.
A two level system
In Quebec, nearly 10% of students attend a private educational institution. In private schools, about 65% receive government grants equivalent to about 60% of those paid by public sector schools for educational services. The reasons given by parents for sending their children to the private sector are great: better governance, special programs, quality education, and so on. To prove that these factors are justified or not should not prevent us from seeing that the current structure of secondary schools has contributed to increasing social inequality.
In fact, there is no reason why studies in Quebec show that one in two students (49%) enrolled in a regular high school program reach CEGEP, while this proportion has increased to 94%. of young people who are in private. secondary school. Worse, 15% of young people from the ordinary public have access to university studies, compared to 60% of those from the private sector.
So right now there are two speed systems: those that go public, and those that can go private. However, despite this observation, the École ensemble activity proposes to highlight the problem by cutting funding to private schools, and by sending all school children to the same public network in their school. neighborhood, even if the latter produces less favorable consequences. . Why not stop funding all educational establishments in Quebec, whether public or private, and instead fund parents so they can make the best choice for their children while they are given the means?
The Swedish model
In Sweden, since the early 1990s, there has been an “education voucher” type system: schools receive a fee for each student they attract. In other words, money follows the student! This freedom of choice means that schools – public or private – directly compete with each other. So their managers have the advantage of watching them thrive and find new ways to meet the needs of students and their parents, because the latter are free to choose another school rather than being conditioned. send their children to school in the neighborhood. Education remains publicly funded and schools generally have to follow the national curriculum.
In this Scandinavian country, the egalitarian system where children have to go to a school is over, even if it does not provide quality education and does not meet the specific needs of some children. And also completed the two-tier system where only the wealthiest parents can send their children to private schools. In Sweden, it offers parents much greater freedom of choice, while offering schools incentives to grow. After all, the fact that consumers vote with their feet is forcing restaurants, hotels and shops to differentiate themselves and find ways to attract customers. The principle is the same as in education: greater competition will lead to a better situation than it is today.
Therefore, encouraging competition between schools by adopting an “education voucher” system while handing over the management of some public schools to the private sector can promote the improvement of the quality of education as well as more good cost control. The École ensemble movement exposes many of the problems in our education system, but it should not anger Quebec for adopting a more unfair and inefficient system. Let us instead guarantee greater freedom of choice for parents, and end this two-tier system that adds to social inequality.