June 20, 2012
A Workable Voucher System for Aboriginal Students
Improving the Quality of Aboriginal Education in Canada
“Nurturing the Learning Spirit of First Nation Students” (The National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education for Students on Reserve, 2012), the recent study of aboriginal education, reports that students on reserves are not doing very well in comparison with other Canadian students. The study panel heard considerable evidence that on-reserve students are often two or more years behind other students. Moreover, there is evidence from Statistics Canada that aboriginal students have substantially lower educational attainment than their non-aboriginal peers even when they attend provincial, offreserve, schools (see Richards, 2008; 2011, p. 2).
Recently, education critics have pointed out that the poor performances of students can result from, among other things, the way schools are administered and the incentives that are used (Ladd, 1996; Seafidi, 2012). In this respect, James Heckman (1999, p. 100), a University of Chicago economist and a Nobel Laureate, said: “Public schools are local monopolies with few competitors.” “The problem in public education is primarily due to muted incentives, not to inadequate resources” (p.107).
Professor Heckman is not the only person who thinks that monopolistic schools need to change their incentives. In fact, a growing number of researchers believe that students’ educational performances can be improved by opening schools to market-style competition (see Chubb & Moe, 1990; Gerson, 2000; Greene, 2001, 2005, 147-156; Holmes, 1998; Raham, 1996; Seafidi, 2012; Viteritti, 1999; Wilkinson, 1994). In this background paper, I outline a voucher system that could open band-controlled schools to competition, which in turn could help to improve the educational accomplishments of aboriginal students.
View entire study as PDF (11 pages)
is a Senior Scholar at the University of Manitoba and a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (www.fcpp.org). He received his B.Ed and M.Ed. from the University of Alberta, his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, and his Fil.Dr. from the University of Stockholm. In addition, he has been awarded a Spencer Fellowship from the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, a Rh. Award from the University of Manitoba, a R.W.B. Jackson Research Award from the Canadian Educational Researchers’ Association, and both an Edward Sheffield and a Distinguished Research Awards from the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education. He has written for numerous newspapers and journals, including the Canadian Journal of Education, Policy Options, Sociology of Education, the National Post, and the Winnipeg Free Press. His books include Socioeconomic Status, Attitudes, and Educational Performances: A Comparison of Students in England and New Zealand, Authority in Classrooms, Crosscurrents: Contemporary Canadian Educational Issues, and Recent Social Trends in Canada, 1960-2000. His most recent book, What’s Wrong With Our Schools and How We Can Fix Them, was published in 2010 and was written with Michael Zwaagstra and John Long.