In a new PBS mini-series, a leading libertarian embarks on a worldwide quest in search of functioning markets in education.
Spoiler alert: He doesn’t find many.
But the late Cato Institute scholar Andrew Coulson does find cause for optimism in his swan song, School Inc., as he scans the globe for places where the best schools are free to grow and serve more students.
He examines America’s elite private prep schools, which “have the quality, demand, technology and time to grow into national networks. They just don’t.” Why? They’re more interested in maintaining traditions than scaling up.
He looks at top charter school networks, which are built with scale in mind. But he finds philanthropists don’t consistently back the best. “There’s a lot of scaling up in the charter sector,” he says. “But it’s indiscriminate.”
He heads to South Korea, where extracurricular hagwons turn the best teachers into big-time entrepreneurs, but notes with concern that this marketplace is fueled, in part, by the country’s high-pressure, test-driven college entrance system. He marvels at India’s flourishing low-cost private schools, but laments the rise of government regulations that have forced many of them out of business. He notes Chile’s voucher system and rising achievement scores, but worries school choice has become a target of a Marxist backlash against the legacy of right-wing strongman Augusto Pinochet. Continue Reading →