Fighting for Equity in Education

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For-profit Schools Have a Bad Record

Monday July 20, 2015

David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democrats senator for NSW, wants to introduce for-profit schools in Australia. It would be a huge mistake.

For-profit schools have a very bad record. They have failed to provide better student outcomes than other schools and often deliver worse results. Many have gone bankrupt leaving students in limbo and facing massive debts.

For-profit charter schools in the United States have no better results than traditional public schools or non-profit charter schools. In particular, for-profit cyber schools in the US have been disastrous with much lower results than traditional public schools.

For-profit schools in Sweden have failed to improve student results – indeed, they have a major factor in the decline in Sweden’s school results over the last 15 years. There is no robust evidence that for-profit schools generate educational improvements.

Many for-profit schools have gone bankrupt, leaving their students in limbo. For example, last year, the biggest for-profit school provider in Sweden, JB Education, collapsed leaving massive debts and its students having to find other schools in the middle of their courses.

The collapse of for-profit higher education and vocational education companies in the US and Australia provides a salutary lesson about resorting to for-profit education. Corinthian Colleges, one of the largest for-profit vocational educational companies in the US collapsed earlier this year leaving with thousands of students with massive piles of debt or loans in default. In the last year, there has been a litany of examples of dodgy for-profit vocational providers in Australia that have failed to meet vocational education standards and have lumbered students with huge debts. These examples vividly demonstrate what happens when profit governs education provision.

The priority of for-profit schools is to cut costs and make a profit rather than ensuring successful outcomes for their students. Their focus is on quantity rather than quality. This has led to larger class sizes and lower teacher quality. For-profit schools employ more unqualified teachers than other schools. Those who are qualified are generally younger and less experienced than in other schools.

Trevor Cobbold

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