NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

School Voucher Programs are Spreading Worldwide

January 26, 2004

Private choice as a public good in primary and secondary education is rapidly gaining favor in developing countries, say observers. These include voucher programs that allow students to attend nongovernment schools.

For example:

  • China, in September, put onto effect a law giving private schools equal standing with state-owned schools; according to statistics, 54,000 private schools enrolling about 7 million students had opened their doors in China by the end of 2000.
  • In Taiwan, education reformers have asked that the education ministry provide free-choice vouchers for all persons between the ages of 4 and 20 years old.
  • Thailand's education commission chairman has proposed a radical overhaul of school finance so that students would decide which schools to attend and use the vouchers to pay the fees.
  • In post-apartheid South Africa, vouchers are being viewed as a way to reduce disparities between rich and poor.

Although South Africans spend a higher percentage of its income on education than any other middle-income developing country, in grade 3, the average reading and writing scores and mathematics scores are only 39 percent and 30 percent respectively.

High academic achievement does not appear to be the result of either small class sizes or high spending, but rather the increased freedom of choice, says the author.

Source: Robert Holland, "School Choice Gathers Momentum Worldwide," School Reform News, November 2003, Heartland Institute.


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