This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.


← Why is evolution more accepted in Mexico than in the USA?

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by Stephen of Wimbledon

In response to Comment 23 by Steve Mading.

Hi Steve,

You are using a bad argument ...

Was I making an argument? I thought I was just stating the facts that I think I know.

Private schools are allowed to eject students ... Government schools [must] take all comers [so] a private school can keep its scores high by being selective [then] use ... better scores ... as "evidence" that the school did a better job ... & You can be kicked out of a private school for getting low grades. [In a] government school ... poor scores ... reflect on the ... school's record in statistics like the one you quoted.

I was under the impression that the international studies of primary school attainment were predicated on samples of all school types. I may be mistaken - as I said I haven't look at this in detail for some time.

I was not singling out Government Schools versus Private Schools in the way you suggest. It's just that the majority of us will attend a government-funded school such that the private school data (in the international comparison samples) will be overwhelmed by the data (and performance) of gov't. funded schools.

Of course a rarely discussed and unintended consequence of this kind of comparison is that parents of pupils in private schools - in any country where the gov't. education sector is under-performing - will tend to see the difference as vindication of their investment and think all is okay.

But, if the combined (private + public) schools record is below that of other countries (or states), those parents may be fooling themselves. Attainment in gov't schools is what underpins truly high education standards across one regulatory area.

Other countries in the English-speaking World are tending to follow the same model - i.e. that government schools must not expel disruptive pupils - it is so obviously a bad policy that I just despair of ever getting a politician to do anything right.

... see, public schools bad, private schools good ... give less funding to public schools, which then cause them to become worse, which they can use as a reason to give them even less funding, in a downward spiral. The goal? Put education back into the hands of religious institutions instead of it being seen as a public good.

I don't know about any plan, but it is true that politicians across the World tend to take the starting point: Supporting bad schools is throwing good money after bad. I'm not convinced that it is only right-wingers either. The basic problem is that everyone - whether 'left' or 'right', to use those rather outdated cold war labels - seems to think that education policy can be run intuitively.

Establishments that supposedly study effective education seem to me to rarely use a proper scientific method and they're all too ready to make broad-brush conclusions from limited observations.

The result is competing 'sociologies' with no real strength - except where the 'results' of studies overlap with this or that, here-today-gone-tomorrow, politician's unthinking prejudice.

My own view, for the record, is that I have never seen an adequately funded education system, and nor have I ever seen an education system which is truly professionally run. Even the best private schools appear to be run using highly subjective criteria and a great deal of by-the-seat-of-the-pants management.

As VrijVlinder points out in his Comment 21, the area where you find any gov't school will help to define its ability to fund itself, with a public school:

... in an area of mostly lower middle class or poor, will have less resources to support the school beyond the minimum.

Where it is possible to compare well-off families who's children are educated in a gov't school with a nearby privately funded school (as we see here in Wimbledon) the difference is often negligible. It is, however, not a given: The management of schools and the skills of teachers still play a very significant role. Parents who are better off, and who take an interest in their child's education, are usually the source of these influences. We also see, occasionally, a large enough number of parents pushing schools in poorer areas and/or driven and skilled Head Teachers succeeding beyond expectations.

I appreciate that some politicians love to play to the religious vote by supporting stories of religions', supposed, ability to replace parents as the driver of education quality. I am dismayed that anything I may have said might be construed as a supporting argument for such an idea.

I hope the above makes my position clearer.

... the fix is NOT to defund public schooling by repeating the dodgy claim that private schools do a better job ...

I agree.


Sat, 14 Jul 2012 18:42:00 UTC | #949206