The Guardian reports today that Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is in favor of school vouchers – and Japan has more experience with market education than most countries, due to its multi-billion-dollar for-profit tutoring industry.
A number of Japanese scholars have observed that their nation’s success on international tests would be unthinkable if it weren’t for the huge popularity of these “juku” tutoring schools. So it begs the question: if the market has worked so well in the tutoring sector, providing education that is so much more flexible, child-centered, and effective than the monopoly school sector, why not liberalize the entire education industry by eliminating the preferential tax funding status of the government schools?
Some will argue that Japan’s private juku schools are too narrowly focused on test preparation, but this is merely a symptom of the niche that juku currently fill in the marketplace. Japan also has numerous traditional private high-schools. Get rid of the financial discrimination currently practiced in favor of government-run k-12 schools, and a wealth of new educational options would arise.
And while the Japanese already trounce much of the world in math and science with only their tutoring schools organized along free market lines, just imagine how they would do with a fully liberalized education market from kindergarten through high-school!