The new government having its own opinionThe new government having its own opinion

The
balance between market and state provision of policy and welfare has been a
long, fiery relationship, with each new government having its own opinion on
who should be paying for and providing policies, often accompanied with an
emotional public response. In ‘Justice: Doing what is right’, Sandel explores
the relationship between morality and markets, looking at topics such as price
gouging and the bailout outrage in 2008. He notes that the price gouging after
hurricane charley caused outrage due to the spike in prices. However, prices in
the free market are not “morally sacrosanct” (Sandel, :4) In a democratic
society, which is based on integral morals, such as equality and fairness, it
is difficult to see how markets could adhere to these values in their entirety,
whilst looking after their own interests.

Today,
education is offered by five main providers; the school system (public and
private), further education colleges, universities, government sponsored
schemes based on training with employers and work experience, and on-the-job
training in employment. In 2016, according to the ISC, there were 1,280
independent schools, with 518,432 students. In 1998, the education reform act
was published. It was an attempt to upgrade vocational education and integrate
it with traditional routes, as well as an acknowledgement by the government
that parents and students want to have the choice of which school they would
like to attend. It created open enrolment, abolishing the tradition of children
only enrolling in their local school and allowing parents to choose where they
wanted to enrol their children. Later, in 2000, New Labour came into power and
continued the work of the conservative government, announcing development of
the ‘academies programme’. The initiative attempted to save failing secondary
schools, with the introduction of semi-privatised schools; schools sponsored by
faith groups, businesses or voluntary organisations. This was combined with a
specialist schools programme. Throughout history, the provision of education
has been state and market provided. In 1870, free elementary school education
was introduced, followed by secondary education in 1944.

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Democracy
is defined in many ways. Some focus on the importance of elections and the even
distribution of power and choice (‘direct democracy’). Others focus on how the
government uses their power (‘representative power’) (Held, 2016). McQuoid-Mason
(1994) uses thirteen primary principles, including citizen participation,
equality, political tolerance, accountability, transparency, regular free and
fair elections, economic freedom, control of the abuse of power, the bill of
rights, accepting the results of elections, human rights, and the concept that
no one is above the law. Democracy is based on the concept that everyone is
equal, founded on the moral ideal of utilitarianism, with particular input from
Betham and Mills, whose ideas have been described as “the founding model of
democracy for a modern industrial society” (Macpherson, 1977, pp.42-3). These
ideas include freedom from absolute power and tradition and the greatest good
for the greatest number.

‘The
greatest good for the greatest number’, is in my opinion, the strongest
weakness of market provision of education, founded on the endless amount of
evidence suggesting that private schooling reinforces social classes and create
an inequality of opportunity and outcome. Reay (2006:304) claims that “the attainment
gap between the classes in education is just as great as it was 20, 50 years
ago and mirrors the growing material gap between the rich and poor in UK
society”. Reay later claimed that “in 2005, 10% of students entitled to free
school meals and therefore the poorest families were still leaving school with
no qualifications at all”. This is backed up by (Green, Henseke and Vignoles,
2016), whose findings suggest the broader curriculum private schools can
deliver and the peer pressure of the segregated society contribute to the
increased earning potential of private school leavers. Other findings show that
people who have been privately educated are more likely to secure high-status
occupation and earn more. It is a contested area, how much and whether
government become involved in structure and content of education, however, it
is difficult to see how market provision of education and democracy can
coincide without it.

The
2010-2015 government policy paper on higher education participation attempts to
tackle some of the social problems around inequality of access to market
provided education. The report outlines the issue as “anyone with the ability
who wants to go to university should have the chance to do so, whatever their
economic or social background. The government wants to get more young people
from disadvantaged backgrounds into higher education” (Gov.uk, 2015). The
report has the right intention. The government provided financial support for
young people in low income families, to allow them to go to university,
introduced a national scholarship programme, which provided extra financial
support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and stated that universities
that wanted to offer the highest amount for tuition must have an access
agreement, approved by the independent director of fair access. This agreement
outlines what they will do to attract and support students from disadvantaged
backgrounds, as well as insisting they offer bursaries and financial support
and carry out outreach work such as partnering with a school from a
disadvantaged area.

Even
if the government does assist people in attending public schools, there is
still going to be a large number people unable to go, due to a variety of
reasons. It is questionable whether it is fair for only part of the population
to be able to attend these schools, who justify their tuition fees on a better
education. In England, private schools do not have to follow the national
curriculum. When looking at private schooling and labour market outcomes, Green
et al. (2016) concluded that the broader curriculum and peer pressure of the
segregated society around private schooling contribute to the increased earning
potential on the individual. Other studies how that people who have been to
private schools achieve higher educationally, are more likely to secure
high-status occupation and earn more. As much as the initiative may help, Ball
et al. (1997:411) claimed ‘in the case of the working class respondents, choice
of secondary school was a contingent decision rather than an open on… competing
pressures of work and family life made certain possibilities difficult or
impossible to contemplate”. Ball suggests that instead of choice of school
being based on the parental vision, it is prescribed by social and economic
circumstances. Bursaries help, but cost of travel, living expenses and other
socio-economic factors, make it far from a level playing field. The ISC 2017
annual report claimed they have reached a record number of pupils since 1974,
at 522,879. However, only 5,742 have been means tested and as a result pay no
fees.

As
much as democracy is based on morals, it would be ignorant not to consider how
economically practical a fully state sponsored education system would be. Wolf
(2002:13 -SP) observed that “lip service may still be paid to learning for
personal enrichment and development, but in politicians’ speeches the emphasis
is unremittingly on what education can do for the economy of the UK”. According
to a report by Exford economics, on the impact of independent schools to the
British economy, in 2014, ISC schools contributed £9.5 million (greater than
both the city of Liverpool and the BBC). The Market model uses the ideology
that if individuals or businesses perceive economic advantage in acquiring
skills and skilled employees, they will undertake training. An investment in
skills would mean higher wages for the employee, alongside increased
productivity for the employer. Policies allow the smooth operation of the
education sector, however allows the quality and quantity of education to be
market driven. When discussing training of employees (whether through higher
education, apprenticeships or any other form mentioned above), there are a
number of problems. The free market allows for ‘poaching’ of skilled employees.
This means that skilled employees can move elsewhere, in line with the highest
bidder. This is an incentive for the businesses to not invest in training, and
to instead poach already skilled workers, or restrict training to business
specific, which in reality is difficult. For the employee, there are a number
of possible problems. Firstly, that not earning or taking home lower wages
while training, may not be repaid by higher wages. Secondly, there is a lack of
information around which skills would be economically worthwhile. Thirdly, a
problem around equal opportunity; that the individual may not be able to afford
the desired skills. These are problems that could arise from a solely market
provided education system, whereby the power is in the hands of the few, there
is little accountability or economic freedom. The Browne report (2010: 14,
20-1) said “those who benefit directly from Higher education as graduates ought
to make a contribution to the costs… unlike primary and secondary education
which are paid for out of general taxation, higher education is neither
compulsory or universal”. Therefore, when exploring the place for market
provision in a democratic society, it may be necessary to break down education
to provision of primary and secondary education, and higher education.
Particularly when considering that primary education is a human right, whereby
higher education is not. Does this therefore mean that the potential inequality
of access to higher education in a democratic society is different to
inequality of access to primary or secondary education? The report states that
because graduates are more likely to receive economic benefits of attending
university, it would not be fair to “rely on public funds collected through taxation
from people who may not have participated in higher education”. However, this
raises two issues. Firstly, as previously mentioned, democracy includes the
value of citizen participation. Secondly, that this could be creating a
barrier; people are not able to afford to go to university as it is not state
funded, therefore there is an increased number of people not attending
university. The ISC conducted a poll in which 57% of British parents would pay
to send their children to private schools if they could afford it. The report
assumes that society is a level playing field; that people have the same access
to state funded education, and private education, however these statistics
clearly show that there is a significant entry barrier.

The
general view behind privatisation of education appears to be that it creates
more flexibility and efficiency of certain services. Belfield and Levin
identified three main factors contributing to the privatisation of education
(ref. 57- 242/26 – privat). These included a high demand for quality education
from parents, perceived decline in quality public schools and lack of funding,
and globalisation in the form of the intervention of international financial
institutions, forcing governments to tighten budgets and increase efficiency.
This would suggest that the markets are respond to public demand for a broader
or more efficient form of education, where the state is letting them down. This
was found in a case study looking at the privatisation of higher education in
Flanders. The case study exhibited the relationship that can form between government
and the market providers of education.

When
looking at the link between human rights and privatisation, there are two
primary stances. On one hand, privatisation of education is potentially
detrimental to the most vulnerable people’s right to access of education.
However, on the other hand, it can increase parents’ choice, the efficiency and
quantity of education, and help streamline public finances” (De Feyter, 2005). Articles
thirteen and fourteen of the ICESR (international covenant on economic, social
and cultural rights) outline the right to education. It contains two aspects;
firstly, an effort from the state to provide access to education. Secondly, the
personal freedom to choose private or public education (De Feyter, 2005). This
argument for market provision of education as a choice; a human right, is a
strong one. However, in my opinion, the argument against contradicts this one.
After exploring the inequality of access, it is not a case of being a simple
choice for everyone in society. This results in a low level of
intergenerational income mobility and high levels of income inequality
(Crawford et al., 2001)

Acemoglu
(2008:2-3)