23 SES 07 B, Equality
Parallel Paper Session
Over the past few decades, the figure of the market has clearly made its way into the field of education. For some authors, it represents an alternative to regulation by the public authorities which is better able to meet the objectives of the education systems. Most of the arguments in favour of introducing market principles into education are to be found in the economic literature. The basic idea is that the pressure exerted by the families, who are free to change schools, will be more effective than the traditional control exercised by public authorities. But if such market principles are today clearly present in many education systems in Europe and in the world, researchers have hardly been able to make objective demonstrations of the benefits for students. Moreover, significant questions have been raised about such a model, and particularly the pressures weighing on parental school choice. On the one hand, for reasons of mobility and access to information, the possible choices are often limited and unequally distributed amongst the families (Lauder and Hugues 1999); on the other, it is not at all certain that families make the school’s educational quality their first criterion for choosing (Mons 2004; van Zanten 2009), and even if this is the case, their ability to compare the schools on this basis is obviously limited. In this respect, it is likely that the families are more interested in the characteristics of the students attending each school rather than the quality of the services the school provides. If such an analysis is correct, it might be hypothesised that the dynamics created by parental school choice is different from that suggested by market theory: it would be in the schools’ interests above all to recruit the best students, rather than improve their practices, which would not lead to an improvement in the quality of education but rather a greater segregation between schools. Moreover, in such an institutional context combining autonomy and competition, one might also formulate the hypothesis of an increase in the school’s efforts to adapt to its public, which would lead to greater differences in the educational provision and ultimately to greater differences in students’ outcomes.The tension between these two explanatory schemes will serve as the main thread of this article.
More precisely, the research questions adressed in this paper are the following:
(1) Is competition between schools associated with increased mean efficiency, as the market theory suggests?
(2) Is competition between schools associated with the level of inequalities in outcomes within education systems, as the alternative model suggests?
(3) Is competition between schools associated with the level of social and academic segregation between schools, as the alternative model suggests?
(4) In a context of greater autonomy for individual schools, do differences in composition between them have a greater impact than elsewhere on the level of students’ skills in science, reading and mathematics?
(5) In a context of competition between schools , do differences in composition have a greater impact than elsewhere on the level of students’ skills in science, reading and mathematics?
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