Was marketisation within education a good idea?

Marketisation within education is the concept of turning the state provision of education into a marketplace of buyers and sellers, whereby the buyers are the parents and the sellers are the schools. It was first introduced during the 1988 Education Reform Act which aimed to match education to the needs of the economy and provide choice and diversity of opportunities.

In a sense, the whole idea of marketisation in fact mirrors the idea of an economy, with the evident role of the marketplace which would reflect the free-market in an economy. The free-market principles also attempted to raise standards by providing not only choice to parents but a diverse range of opportunities for young people.

OFTSED and league tables

The 1988 Education Reform Act brought in a variety of policies which sought to achieve its two main aims. OFTSED inspections became a more credible source of information for parents who were seeking to put their child into the best school they could find, with specialised reports being available to the public. This therefore created a greater tablespoon of transparency as parents would truly know the reputation, standards and levels of a certain school.

However, to counter the validity of OFSTED inspections, one may ask, "are these reports actually accurate?" Often many may argue that the idea of an inspector coming in and evaluating the school over such a minute time period does not produce a genuine representation of the school. Some may even push it to the sense that bias may be involved based on subjectiveness.  

The 1988 education reform act also triggered the publication of school league tables. These lists of data were used to rank schools based primarily on academic results allowing parents to clearly visualise and compare schools with one another. Although these tables do recognise achievement and high- performing institutions, they certainly do not measure pupils' happiness and may even mis-represent schools in certain ways (due to the high focus on academia achievements).

Despite this, the measure of value-added has been used in order to record how well pupils have progressed over their education period. Theoretically this should be a greater, more valuable measure but the general picture is that many simply disregard it in favour of the overall academic results when looking at league tables.

As a result of implementing league tables, the competition between schools began to escalate developing a gap between "successful and sink institutions". A scenario of when a more successful institution was oversubscribed due to parents being attracted by the high levels of teaching and standards was always common, whilst low-achieving institutions were deemed "less attractive".

With all these problems and loopholes, was marketisation within education justified?

Damage limitation

The result of introducing a marketplace into the field of education is a topic for everyone. Whether you are a sociologist, historian, politician or economist, marketisation is an intriguing topic of discussion. Yes, one could say that it provided a diverse range of choice for parents to best choose which school to place their children at, but the consequences of implementing such have to be taken into consideration when making a meaningful judgement. It can be better explained through the two economics terms. Creative destruction and competition.

When turning an aspect of society into a marketplace, it is inevitable that competition between schools (in this case), will develop. The sellers (schools) are responsible to best represent their institution as the best option out of the rest, with the buyers making their selection. Schools are all competing for the same cohort and it is of high certainty that inequalities will form with various levels of teaching, different opportunities and cultural capital.

On the contrary, creative destruction may be in fact be an underlying and more "acceptable" way of forming a perspective on this issue. With marketisation, it allows an efficient way to allocate resources concerning educational purposes, providing a greater value and meaning of education. Creative destruction encourages useful innovation and better methods of carrying out a process.

Schools become better equipped; teaching resources are well-upgraded and education becomes a prosperous aspect of society with underachievement being addressed and an attempt to reduce inequality.

So marketisation was good, right?

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