The big-box school model that has dominated educational systems is looking shakier by the day. In America, parents fed up with poor results in public schools are taking more control over their children’s education: To look at just one metric, there were 1.5 million children homeschooled in America last year, 75 percent more than eight years ago.Yet the truly surprising thing may be that the revolt against the big-box model is a global phenomenon. Britain seems to have embraced education reform even more thoroughly than America. The Economist reports that over the past two years, hundreds of British schools have managed to break free of control by local bureaucrats and have gained the power to determine their own curriculum and administration. Groups of especially dedicated parents have teamed up with local charities to create fully independent community-run schools, and their example is inspiring others to do the same.These efforts still have a long way to go. Recent reports show that the locally run schools have so far been unable to make significant gains in their students’ education, but the blame may lie with some familiar parties:
Six in ten academy heads said that national agreement on pay and conditions have prevented them from paying effective teachers more or extending the school day to give weaker pupils extra tuition, the survey found. When the education secretary, Michael Gove, drafted plans to devolve power to individual schools, he hoped to chip away at such conventions, and thereby enfeeble the powerful unions. Yet the unions are as uppity as ever: on March 28th the National Union of Teachers staged a strike in London in protest at pension changes that cancelled classes in the capital’s schools. […]Pupils do better in wealthy countries in which schools exercise autonomy than in those in which teaching is tightly prescribed, according to studies by McKinsey, a consultancy, and the OECD, a think tank.
The old model of large, state-run schools with powerful edu-unions and rigid centralized control has had years to become entrenched; it won’t go overnight, but go it must, if America and Britain are to keep their competitive edge. Change is coming.