NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

International Evidence Links School Choice With Better Education

September 24, 1999

School choice in Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States causes schools to be more responsive to parental concerns, creates greater awareness of educational issues among the general public, and significantly improves student learning, says a new study by Canada's Fraser Institute. Drawing on examples of education choice in these four countries, the study argues that school reform in Canada has lagged behind.

  • In Denmark, a voucher equal to about 75 percent of the public school cost per pupil follows about 13 percent of elementary and lower-secondary school students to independent schools -- where voucher parents are required to pay part of the tuition themselves.
  • New Zealand decentralized its education system 10 years ago by turning centrally administered schools into locally managed charter schools; creating a new, autonomous public agency to assess them; and establishing a small voucher program for low-income students.
  • In 1991, Sweden created a voucher program that has stimulated a rapid growth in innovative independent schools, which now serve 3 to 4 percent of students.
  • In the United States, education is being reformed through charter schools, education vouchers and tax credits.

In Canada, however, public opinion polls show that confidence in the education system is at a 30-year low. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD):

  • Some 27 percent of Canadian adolescents drop out of high school -- a higher rate than in any other OECD country.
  • Of those young adults who have completed high school in the past decade, 33 percent are insufficiently literate to cope in contemporary society.
  • International testing data indicate that the achievement of Canadian students in mathematics and science is mediocre compared to their peers in other industrialized countries.

Source: Claudia Rebanks Hepburn, "The Case for School Choice: Models from the United States, New Zealand, Denmark and Sweden," Critical Issues Bulletin, September 1999, Fraser Institute, 4th Floor, 1770 Burrard Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6J 3G7, Canada (604) 688-0221.


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