Trading in Futures: Why Markets in Education Don't Work

Trading in Futures: Why Markets in Education Don't Work

Trading in Futures: Why Markets in Education Don't Work

Trading in Futures: Why Markets in Education Don't Work


This book shows that the faith in educational markets is misplaced. Throughout the English speaking world and now Western Europe and parts of East Asia parental choice and educational markets are being seen by politicians and policy advisors as the panacea to problems of low educational standards and social exclusion. This book is the first to systematically test the key assumptions underlying the faith in markets by linking an analysis of parental choice to flows of students between schools and their impact on school effectiveness. The results of this study suggest that the ability to realize choices is dependent on social class, gender and ethnicity and that this can have a negative impact on some schools' performance. Rather than raising standards the impact of markets is to polarise them, leading to an impoverished education for many students.

This important book will be vital reading for students of educational policy, sociology of education and school effectiveness and improvement, educational researchers, academics and policymakers.


The introduction of markets into state education has caused intense debate. Advocates of markets in education have claimed that they will raise standards and promote equality of opportunity at a time when economic competitiveness is seen to depend on the performance of educational systems. in the United States the Chief Executive of ibm has gone so far as to write a book extolling the virtues of education markets as the means to halt America’s economic decline. in their best-selling book (endorsed by President Clinton), Reinventing Government, Osborne and Gaebler (1993) see education markets as the key to promoting efficiency and creativity in education. These arguments have been taken up enthusiastically by national and local governments in the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Australia. Elements of market policies are also being introduced in Europe and considered in the Pacific Rim, while supranational agencies like the World Bank and the imf have nailed their colours to the market cause.

The belief in the effectiveness of education markets has become orthodoxy in official policy circles, but many researchers in these countries have taken an opposing view. To date, the debate has gone through two cycles. Initially, it was conducted at an abstract level involving arguments from first principles and inferences as to likely market outcomes from microeconomic theory and research into school effectiveness and social exclusion. Subsequently, aspects of market policies have been the subject of research which has shown that there is considerable inequality of parental choice based on social class, gender and ethnicity. Although these results are important they do not count decisively against market policies in education.

This book initiates a third phase in the debate over markets. At the heart of the debate is the question of whether markets do what market advocates hope, which is to improve school performance. Critics of education . . .

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