Giving Compass’ Take:
· In this report from the Manhattan Institute, Ashley Rogers Berner talks about educational pluralism around the world and weighs the pros and cons of a plural school system.
· What is educational pluralism and what countries have implemented a plural system? Should the US adopt a plural education system? How would it change the current system?
A majority of the world’s democracies support school systems in which the state funds and regulates, but does not necessarily operate, a mosaic of schools. The Netherlands, for example, supports 36 different types of schools—including Catholic, Muslim, and Montessori—on an equal footing. The U.K., Belgium, Sweden, and Hong Kong help students of all income levels attend philosophically and pedagogically diverse schools. So do most Canadian provinces. Funded schools in these pluralist systems are also subject to robust regulations and, in some cases, to a common academic curriculum. Educational pluralism does not guarantee high academic performance and strong civic behaviors, but when this system is well executed, it makes such outcomes more likely. Importantly, educationally plural countries also provide for what the U.S. calls “district schools”; a third of Dutch students attend them. The difference is that, in educationally plural systems, many types of schools are considered to be part of the public education system.
Public education in the U.S., however, has operated as a unitary system for over a century—which means that public schools are funded, regulated, and exclusively delivered by government. The past 25 years have brought some diversified forms of delivery, such as through charters. Nevertheless, our imaginations—and our public debates—remain captive to the existing paradigm, in which only district schools are considered truly public, and all alternatives (including funding via tax credits and vouchers) must justify themselves on the basis of superior test scores. Fierce competition between school sectors is the inevitable result, while political rhetoric and legislative initiatives skew toward one of two poles: the libertarian and the statist.
Educational pluralism aligns with neither of these poles but stands firmly in the center, affirming both distinctive cultures as well as robust public accountability. But what might it look like in the United States? This paper addresses key concerns, draws upon existing models, and suggests an inclusive path toward educational improvement that rests upon key levers that all schools share. The goal is a completely different conceptual and organizational framework for American public education.
Read the full article about educational pluralism by Ashley Rogers Berner at the Manhattan Institute.
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