PROS AND CONS OF HAVING FREE OR SUBSIDIZED EDUCATION VOUCHERS

by 高莫娜 Mona
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In our last article, we discussed different countries having Education Vouchers for their students. I dig deep into the schemes and found out that all schemes come with added benefits and additional risks. In the literature about the “PEVS”, the Hong Kong School Voucher scheme, it is clear that a dichotomy exists between proponents and opponents. 

I examined the literature, excluding reports and websites that were cited as secondary sources in various reports reviewing the pre-primary education voucher scheme (PEVS) by the Education Commission in 2010 & education vouchers system by the research and library services division, Legislative Council Secretariat in 2002

3 papers/studies on PEVS by the Education Commission

8 papers from independent researchers

 From these 11, I have chosen 6 literatures to be included in this review.  The two Fung & Lam papers (2009, 2011) are combined into one source

According to the critics, there are some advantages and some disadvantages of the scheme. We’ll go through them turn by turn.

Advantages

Carnoy (1998)

  • The voucher has increased consumer/ investor choice;
  • It has reduced teachers’ collective bargaining power
  • There is control on public spending on education

Parry (1997)

  • It is permitting private schools to enter the competition for students on an equal basis
  • It has improved efficiency during the implementation, same score with lower expenditures.

Fung & Lam (2009, 2011)

  • It has actualized the government’s intentions to professionalize KG services
  • Competition in the market has promoted the responsiveness of schools, pushing them to provide desirable services that conform to parental preferences

Liet al. (2009)

    • It has increased parents’ and children’s ability to afford education improving their choices

 

  • It has produced efficiency

 

Disadvantages

Carnoy (1998)

  • The public schools have cut services to “high cost” students, particularly those with disabilities or special learning needs
  • The higher income groups take advantage of private alternatives or choice among public schools

Sparkes & West (1998)

  • It is providing the service to only the high-value or low-cost customers.
  • The admissions policy does not ensure equity
  • The choice offered under the scheme was limited
  • There is inflexible framework of acceptable session lengths and favours the established school structure

Parry (1997)

  • Not all students have benefitted equally, 
  • Students from middle and upper socio-economic background have improved 
  • Students from lower socio-economic levels in both urban and rural areas worsened
  • The government as the voucher scheme greatly reduced the power and cohesion of personnel in the education sector

Fung & Lam (2009, 2011)

  • It is more common for KGs to compromise their professional preferences 
  • There could be a reduction in total student enrolment in KG education as a result of the decreasing birth rate
  • It is limiting the diversity of developmentally appropriate learning opportunities for young children and impeding them in mastering learning skills authentically.

Li et al. (2009)

  • It exaggerates inequality in education. 
  • Vouchers might become discount coupons for wealthier families, that they might benefit more from vouchers.

There might be various opinions about the scheme. Notwithstanding the different perspectives of different issues, we stand together in our common quest for quality pre-primary education for the children in Hong Kong and around the world. As very well said by C.R.Lewis (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963), a novelist and literary critic from Ireland:

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”

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