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Nurturing a thousand flowers International approaches to government funded, privately provided schools

Laura Lewis and Oli de Botton

This paper seeks to examine how policy makers and providers operate successfully within the context of supply-side reforms

Schools that are government funded and privately provided are growing in size and influence around the world. From New York to Shanghai, and from London to Stockholm, existing schools are being released from government control and new schools are being run by non-state providers.

This growth builds on long-standing traditions. In New Zealand private providers have been embedded in the state system for over 20 years; in the Netherlands and Denmark they have been in place for more than 80 and 150 years respectively. These providers are often diverse, including social enterprises, trade unions, parent-led groups, not-for-profits, faith organisations and businesses.

This paper seeks to examine how policy makers and providers operate successfully within the context of these supply-side reforms. We focus on the role of regulation and provider management; we do not seek to explore the rights and wrongs of the reforms themselves.

The structure of our paper follows a framework designed by Lewis and Patrinos (2011). The framework, which is based on a number of international studies, highlights key characteristics of systems that effectively host private, government funded providers, including:

  • The promotion of choice and voice, giving parents high quality school options and the ability to
  • actively engage in school based management
  • A competitive environment which is responsive to parental demand but caters for children
  • from all backgrounds
  • Accountability structures that set high standards and have the capacity to intervene where
  • there is underperformance
  • Highly autonomous schools with the freedom to innovate
  • The capacity to scale up innovation quickly and efficiently
  • Transparency in all aspects of reform
  • Clear democratic oversight through the political process