23 SES 11 A, Policies of School Choice 2
School choice was deemed not only as a parents’ right, but also an instrument for stimulating competition among schools, which would eventually lead to better school quality. If parents are not allowed to choose their schools freely, schools have little incentive in meeting parents’ needs or improving their quality. Supporters of parental choice also argue that by giving parents the right to choose schools, disadvantaged family can have a better chance of attending good schools.
However, some argued that school choice could lead to greater inequality because advantaged families are more likely to have the ability, knowledge, and resources for making better school choice for their children, thus creating a stratified school system. Understanding parental choice of school is thus important for better policy design, resource allocation, and school management.
When parents make their school choice, some schools are more likely to attract better and more students while other schools tend to lose students. The impact of size differences is indecisive. Smaller schools are usually considered better, especially for disadvantaged students. Students tend to get more attention from teachers. On the other hand, some argue that larger schools are more capable of providing diverse curriculum and more resources. They are also more cost effective. In the case of Taiwan, larger schools tend to be the one that enjoy better reputation.
In Taiwan, parents are bounded by school zone that determines the schools their children can attend unless they choose a private one. Despite the fact that the government wants to restrict the school choice of parents, parents in Taiwan can still find ways to send their kids to other public schools they prefer. How do parents make their choices? What are their major considerations in making school choice? How do factors such as race, gender, SES and others affect parental school choice? These are the major interests behind this paper. Findings of this research can provide feedback for policy makers in allocating resources. School managers can also benefit from this finding in running their schools.
To address the research questions, extreme cases are chosen for study. Extreme cases are defined as nearby junior high schools that are very different in the size of their student population. Technically speaking, when one school has twice the size of the other one but these two are less than 1000m apart, they are defined as extreme pairs. The pairs of schools that meet the selection criteria were chosen because they constituted interesting cases for analyzing parents’ choice. With two schools nearby, how do parents decide where to send their kids to? These are important questions for policy makers and school managers.
Findings of this research are important for international comparison and policy learning. Parents make their school choice based on their preferences, which are affected by culture. In that case, encouraging school competition through parental choice might have different impact on educational quality and equality. Findings of this research can provide important feedback for making policies related to parental school choice.
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