Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Sometimes you really have to wonder at it all...

"Reducing the role of government in education has many advantages. The recent history of Iberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan shows how government education policies were major factors in provoking the conflicts. Reducing the temptation for governments to use education for their own ends would be very positive. Moving education as far as possible outside government control could also help reduce corruption. And private education, by delivering higher education standards, can help bring about a better educated populace, which would act as a bulwark against states oppressing their people"
If it was not for the giveaway that this refers to Africa the whole section could well refer to the reasons for the ongoing failure of the nationalised UK education system - and how to fix it.
From here by the way.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Private schools are better (although they churn out rather one dimensional people), my problem with it is rent seeking by private schools, most of whom overcharge hideously.

paulc156 said...

Almost anything would improve education in chaotic third world states devestated by civil wars. Those states frequently have little in the way of 'government' where the term often is more of a euphemism for 'the military'.

Far more neaningful for the UK would be to look at the edu' systems in other advanced economies. Whether one looks at China, Singapore, Japan or closer to home in Finland, the best performing systems are predominantly state funded and managed. Not something that the IEA would want to write about really.

Lola said...

MW. No chance of 'rent seeking' when there is a competitive private market. In any event the overcharging by private schools is because not despite the overall nationalisation of education. That's why they can 'rent seek'. And diversity of suppliers would see a diversity of dimensions.

Lola said...


Para 1. yes. And no. What the piece is telling you is that even in the most desperate situations parents see education as the answer to the problem and they priorities the purchase of that service for their children.

Para 2.
Yes. And no. Those other 'education' systems don't educate. They train. Finland is possibly an outlier as it is a small country with a very homogeneous population.

In general Blair went for the 'training' approach with his 'education, education, education' aka 'indoctrination, indoctrination, indoctrination' meme.

Mike W said...

I like your methodological style on this one Lola. Reverse the model and apply it here.

The education system in fact worked 'well'. 6/7% go to the Public Schools and then fill the top universities from 50% down to 15%. Then fill the professions, etc etc. The key was 'padding out' the number of Grammar school boys and girls who fought for the remaining places. This was the function of FE/City College/Polytechnic. You could leave your, shit hole comprehensive (there were and are so many) with no qualifications(people still do) and put your now eighteen -year- old- self, one, two, three years later, back in the race. To my mind, this system was just about as meritocratic as a feudal state like the UK could manage. But cut FE out of Education, Education, Education as Labour and the Tories did and this 'social contract' was broken. Post 1945:Private, Tripartite, Comprehensive, Academies, Fuck knows, will all, always fail in and of themselves.The key is in the second and third chance system for 18+ (young adults). End of.

Lola said...


The report shows that market works. Why would that not be the case in the UK?

Yes. UK education did work well-ish. Up until Crosland got stuck into secondary education. Mind you the two part system of Grammars and Technical schools (aka secondary moderns) was never really properly sorted as far as the non - grammar were concerned. Overall education has been the football of each main UK party, both of whom see it as a vote getting exercise and/or an indoctrination exercise. (As someone who went to a Grammar in the early 1960's I can state that it was a very classical liberal education with effectively only three school rules. 1. Wear your cap. Nope never did. Two don't run in the corridors. Weeellll.... Three act responsibly.)

FE has been ruined by the same indoctrination mindset.

Having watched my wife work as a teacher for 35+ years it became clearer and clearer that the 'system' was the problem. It's structurally unsound. De-nationalisation is its only saviour.

paulc156 said...

L. Not clear how you define 'educate' in Sierra Leone, Sudan etc and 'train' in all those high performing Asian states but the hand wave toward Finland 'an outlier' is a bit glib. An inconvenient 'outlier' for sure!
In any case such lazy stereotyping is innacurate. Finland has had significant immigration from Africa and Asia and still the system gets results even in those areas where migrants tend to dwell. Also not dissimilar culture to Norway and Sweden yet outstrips them easily. We can probably justify caution in trying to import intensive South Korean style hothousing but Finland's approach is far more user friendly. Based on a love of learning with the smallest gap between the high achievers and the laggards. It is at its core an innovative system based on experimentation with little buearacratic interference. The teachers are generally far more higly qualified even at Primary level.
It seems like a no brainer to me. So no need to reinvent the wheel. Lessons for British schools can be learnt from a much shorter distance than sub Saharan Africa.

Lola said...

P156. There you go. I said that Finland woukd be an outlier as it is small and homogeneous, which it is.
The principle of markets applies just as much in education services as anything else and that's what the IEA research shows.

paulc156 said...

L. Thats just repetition without any illumination.

I did point out that the old 'Finland homogenous' retort doesnt account for the influx of immigrants over the last decade from third world countries. Even in achools with lower income catchments and newcomers from distant shores the Fins still manage to deliver.

Also the 'small country' remark is of dubious merit. It does imply smaller schools which should not be an major issue (it isn't for free schools here).
After all if we did an experiment here (not a thought experiment ala iea) where we ran the Finland system in a metropolitan area combined with some rural bits with a population of half a million or so and it worked, you couldn't seriously dismiss it on the basis that it didn't oncolve 5 million kids!
Of course we Brits have so much more in common with Sudanese cattle ranchers...

Lola said...

Finland. Does not seem to have any immigration problems https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Finland
Population about 5.5 million, so muslim is about 0.1% of the population. not all of whom would be school age.
So the population is reasonably homogeneous.
Small population does not necessarily imply smaller schools. I haven't checked by guess would be that the bulk of the finish population is relatively concentrated.
You comment above ...but Finland's approach is far more user friendly. Based on a love of learning with the smallest gap between the high achievers and the laggards. It is at its core an innovative system based on experimentation with little buearacratic interference. The teachers are generally far more higly qualified even at Primary level.
It seems like a no brainer to me...
seems fairly 'market' to me. The 'lack of bureaucracy' is the clue.

FWIW I think we are arguing at cross purposes here.

paulc156 said...

Yep Lola. It's hands off but gov funded and definitely not private or profit making.
There arent schools competing fir kids in same area. If you dont like a school you move house!

They don't micro nanage though there is a curriculum, its only a guide. Methods of teaching are down to the school. There are some constants. They do start school at 7 years. No testing for the first 6 years so no teaching to the test. No central exams before 16. Teachers stay with the class for the first few years of school rather than kids changing teachers each year. All kids taught in one classroom. ie.no streaming. Little homework...

Their schools are of a much smaller average size than here. They have had an influx of immigrants (tens of thousands per year) in recent years. So its not like here, maybe more like free schools but a very different ethos.That is, its geared toward an all in it together approach. Hence little gap between the brightest kids and those at the bottom of the academic ladder. So not competetive but collegial.

DBC Reed said...

@L The 70's coup mounted on the Tory leadership (Heath) by Keith Joseph ( then, when he showed himself up as a loony eugenicist in his Edgbaston speech, was successfully continued by his disciple Margaret Thatcher ), relied on this same distortion of the class system.Thatcher's idea was to boost the middle class so they could pay for their own private medicine, private education etc so obviating the need for big government spending which they had convinced themselves was invariably inflationary. Keith Joseph was more in favour of stopping the lower orders breeding because " Our human stock is threatened".
Thatcher worked out that you could gift a new middle class billions in capital by conniving at house price inflation.Unfortunately, like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, she could not then turn this mechanism off.
On a personal note, I contrast my public sector nationalised education with my father's private cheap skate education before the war which left him without the basics:he could write good commercial English but that was about it.He had no science, maths or foreign languages although he was, at least as intelligent as me.
My mother bitterly contrasted her first confinement in a nice totally incompetent private nursing home which left my older brother's head crushed and mentally disabled for life with my straightforward birth in a well-run public hospital prior to receiving ,for free, an education to post-grad level.
We have to stop tinkering with the post-war settlement.You are experimenting with people's lives for no reason.

Bayard said...

The big question is: if France and Germany can have state-funded education that is so good that almost no-one sends their children to private schools, why can't we?

On another note, I met an old friend who had started two "Academies" and was getting good results from what had been pretty hopeless state schools. I asked what she had changed and she said one thing more than anything else: staff morale. So it looks like the problem with British education is that old British disease of bad management.

Lola said...

Bayard. Bad 'state' management then?

Lola said...

DBCR In haste. Bit busy.

And a current nationalised system failure nearly killed me. The terrible mishap for your brother is not tenable as a pro-nationalisation argument. I could just as easily contrast the excellent results of a local private hospital with a local nationalised one.

I hoped my post would provoke reaction from yourself and Paul156 et al. I am thinking of responding by an 'update', but I v. busy today at work. So it will either be this evening or tomorrow.

Bayard said...

"Bad 'state' management then?"

Well, in this case, yes, but the problem is endemic. I suppose, in time, badly managed private sector businesses go bust, unlike their public sector counterparts, but certainly, running a business into the ground seems no hindrance to walking straight into another highly-paid management role, once you have achieved the heights of telephone number renumeration.

DBC Reed said...

I was trying to point out that before the NHS it was considered perfectly normal for a woman to give birth in a private establishment with nobody on site who could deal with a standard breech birth .The very long term consequences were entirely foreseeable.
As the subject was cheap private education, I would cite the case of my only girl cousin from a very middle class branch of the family who was, post-war, given a local private education on the assumption that her destiny was marriage. Her class was suddenly entered for O level English Language for which they received no tuition: they did not receive any results and the subject was never mentioned afterwards.
Laissez faire is the very last organising principle that should be applied to education.Children should be given equal opportunities financed by LVT (as good schools raise house prices that can be recycled to help schools in poorer areas) and should be taught by schemes of work and teaching methods that HM Inspectorate has observed
working in the field.

Lola said...

Para 1. That has absolutely zero to do with the nationalisation of health care. Nil. De nada. Zilch. At get go the NHS just nationalised the existing infrastructure and professions. The NHS changed no systems or processes other that how health care was funded and owned. It didn't even build a new hospital until 1963. Those changes in operating procedures occurred in every health care system whether nationalised or not as all over western society demand for safety and knowledge within the systems improved.
Para 2 That again has nothing to do with private or nationalised education. It has all to do with the attitudes of parents. I know two women now who were denied educational opportunity under the nationalised system by parental choice.
Laissez faire is the very first principle under which economies must organised themselves - and as they have successfully done so whenever they have been left alone to do dos - as all other systems fail. Education is just another service in a free economy. And you know that I agree that LVT is the best tool for sorting out location advantage by price and that - if anyone really insists - I am prepared to accept 'school vouchers' as the least worst way that the taxpayer can be coerced into funding universal education.
There is no need for HM Inspectors at all. In any free system external audits would be available commercially that would be used by schools to demonstrate their quality to potential customers. (My business does this now). ISO9001 is here already.

DBC Reed said...

I have on my desk a 1944 publication by the Government called British Way and Purpose which is a consolidation of pamphlets issued by the Directorate of Army Education. They cover standard social issues such as Work, Housing, the Family, Education, Europe (!) etc. Clearly the purpose was to try and persuade conscripted men to go out and get their balls blown off in the national interest: to give them some sense that it would make the UK a better place. Otherwise they might wonder whether the Soviet system (which was actually winning the war) might not be better or even the Nazi system which had, pre-war, put 6million back to work and sent a lot of them on subsidised Holiday cruises round the Mediterranean.
Laissez faire it aint, certainly not the current Laissez Faire Minus version (ie not Adam Smith's laissez faire which provided for land value uplift to be channelled back into the economy via LVT).Basically if you believe in the role of LVT to transform land value inflation into productive enrichment, ( I am in the process of convincing myself that we should make LVT stand for Land Value Transformation or Transformer), you should be working out how the tax take or land value transformed best be spent.Otherwise: discontent and revolution will follow which we are going through now with the totally irrational drive to jump off the Brexit cliff.