Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hanushek on Education

One of the Econtalk podcasts is given by Erik Hanushek. The best thing to do is to listen to the podcast itself but he makes a number of points that are worth debating in the Irish context.

- Some schools are being under-resourced. One approach to this in the US has been to take law suits to force states to invest in these schools. This sounds good from a justice perspective. But Hanushek makes the point that this then leaves decisions on school spending allocation in the hands of judges rather than education policy makers and leads to unpredictable patterns of reallocation from other budgets to finance the binding expenditure constraints created.

- He argues that greater transparency on school spending is needed to ensure that public budgets are used more effectively to develop children. In particular, he argues that teachers unions have too much lobbying power and that education policy is too focused on teacher conditions rather than on student conditions.

- Related to this, he argues for greater focus on the actual causal effect of spending on different inputs into the school system.

We have approximately 700 second-level schools in Ireland and 3,000 or so primary schools. The literature on the actual impact of government spending in these institutions is remarkably flimsy. We are also facing very tight budget constraints. More hard analysis of what we are spending money on in these areas is badly needed as well as greater economic input into the education debate in Ireland.

No comments: