Can the Market Save Our Schools?

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This book considers the potential of market-based policies to address the problems facing Canadian education. It offers the results of systematic research into the effects that other market-based education reforms have had in Canada and around the world where they have been tried and tested, in some cases for years, in others for generations.

The collected papers shed a timely light on the Ontario government's proposed refundable tax credit for independent schooling, a policy that is bound to encourage an education market in Ontario and set an example for the rest of Canada. Will such a market, in which parents choose schools and schools compete for students, be good for education? This book attempts to answer that question.

Can the Market Save Our Schools? is, in part, the product of a Fraser Institute conference, School Choice: Dispelling the Myths and Examining the Evidence, held in April 2000, at which international scholars reported an array of evidence on educational choice and its impact on children, schools, and school systems around the world. This volume contains seven papers from that conference and includes three more papers to elaborate some of the themes.

The purpose of this book is to study the potential of market-based solutions to address the problems facing Canadian education. It is divided into three sections. In the first section, Can the Market Save Our Schools? the authors consider the educational status quo in Canada and the United States, and then suggest why developing an educational market, where schools are allowed to compete more freely for students, will produce better educational results for more students. They suggest that the public's goals for its education system would be more attainable if we encouraged schools to respond to the demands of parents rather than to those of the bureaucracy.

In the second section, Case Studies in Market Education, five respected academics contribute the results of their research on a range of market mechanisms, from traditional forms of school choice, to charter schools, vouchers, and choice for the poor in developing countries.

And in the final section, Grassroots Perspectives on Choice, a parent and a student who have both used a voucher program comment on the differences between the non-market and market systems. Their anecdotal experience casts a very different light on the real effects of policy decisions made by those in comfortable offices, with multiple diplomas and adequate disposable income to choose the schools their own children attend.

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