2010年7月6日 星期二


2010 年07月06日 06:13 AM


The most appealing aspect of an often bizarre Conservative election platform was the proposal to make it far easier for new schools to enter the state-funded sector. Under Tory proposals, anyone who passes regulatory muster can set up a school and bid to attract pupils, who will come neatly packaged with state funding. The Conservatives want to expand dramatically the range of choices, introducing new, innovative schools and perhaps reinvigorating older schools with the bracing winds of competition. But will it work?

英国保守党的竞选政纲常常有些异想天开,但其中最具吸引力的一项提议,是大大降低新学 校享受财政拨款的教育领域的难度。根据保守党的提案,任何通过监管机构审批的人都能成立学校招生,而学生们均将获得政府资助。保守党希望明显扩大选择范 围,引入创新型新学校,也许还能通过良性竞争,让老一些的学校重新焕发活力。但这管用吗?

The Conservatives point to Sweden and to the US, both of which have introduced policies along these lines. In their manifesto they wrote that in Sweden, “standards have risen across the board as every school does its best to satisfy parents”. The evidence is more ambiguous than that. Early studies of the Swedish reforms looked impressive; more recent work has raised some questions.

保守党人提到已出台类似政策的瑞典和美国。他们在宣言中写道,在瑞典,“由于每所学校 都尽力满足家长的要求,行业水准得到全面提高”。可证据并不像他们所说的这般明确。有关瑞典改革的早期研究看上去有理有据;但后来的研究就反映出了不少问 题。

In the US, the evidence is more encouraging, but – warns Joshua Angrist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – it comes with a health warning. British reformers sometimes talk casually about the benefits of American “charter schools” as though this was some well-defined category. But different US states have very different regimes. Some have simply liberalised entry without much regulatory oversight. Others, such as Massachusetts, are stricter and close down charter schools that are failing to deliver.

来自美国的证据更令人鼓舞一些,但麻省理工学院(MIT)的乔舒亚•安格里斯特 (Joshua Angrist)警告,美国的情况也存在问题。英国改革家有时会不自觉地提到美国“特许学校”(charter school)的好处,仿佛这种学校的界定已十分明确。但美国不同的州拥有截然不同的体制。一些州在审批时完全不设限制,也没有什么监管。而有些州,例如 马萨诸塞州,就较为严格,还会关闭那些未能达到要求的特许学校。

The most credible research studies a particular subset of schools, typically in New York and Massachusetts. They are typically “no excuses” schools that emphasise discipline, long hours and short holidays. They are oversubscribed. The disadvantage here is that researchers are looking only at charter schools that parents already reckon are succeeding. But the advantage is that places are allocated by lottery and so researchers can compare lottery winners and losers. The encouraging conclusion is that such charter schools can be dramatically effective, especially for poor children and ethnic minorities.

其中可信度最高的研究考察了部分特许学校,主要是在纽约州和马萨诸塞州。这些学校是典 型的“不给借口”学校,强调纪律、长时间学习和较短的假期,申请竞争也相当激烈。但该研究的缺点在于,研究人员只考察了那些家长已经认为取得成功的特许学 校。但优点在于,学校是以抽签的形式挑选的,因此研究人员能对抽出的赢家和输家进行比较。令人鼓舞的结论是,这种特许学校会非常有效,尤其是对贫困及少数 族裔儿童。

Several questions remain unanswered, however. One is about how much autonomy charter schools should really have. The ideal combination in the US seems to be freedom from dealing with teacher unions and public school schedules, but nevertheless a tight leash as far as performance is concerned. The schools which give their pupils “no excuses” are allowed few themselves. More laissez-faire approaches to charter schools in other states appear to work less well, which suggests that parent power alone is not enough.

但有几个问题仍未得到解答。一个是,特许学校到底应拥有多大的自主权。在美国,理想的 状况似乎是不必与教师工会打交道,无需理会公立学校的教学大纲,但在表现方面要严加管教。允许不给学生任何借口的学校自己也没有什么特权。其它州对特许学 校实施的更自由放任的政策,似乎就不那么有效了。这表明,仅凭家长的力量是不够的。

A second question is whether charter schools boost the performance of other schools, hollow them out, or do nothing to them. In Sweden, the signals are mixed. In the US, I am aware of no credible evidence either way. If charter schools are to raise the standards of regular schools, parents need to be able to distinguish good schools from bad. Some new research from Simon Burgess of Bristol University, Ellen Greaves of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and others, suggests that parents in the UK do sensibly weigh up the academic quality of schools. Parents do like schools with low poverty rates – which might push towards segregation – but they don't seem to care about race. Poor parents have broadly similar preferences to rich parents.

第二个问题是,特许学校是改善了其它学校的表现,还是起到了反作用,抑或是毫无影响。 在瑞典,似乎各种影响皆有。而在美国,哪种影响都拿不出可靠证据。若想让特许学校提高普通学校的水准,家长们必须能区分良莠。布里斯托大学 (Bristol University)的西蒙•伯吉斯(Simon Burgess)与伦敦财政研究所(Institute for Fiscal Studies)的埃伦•格里夫斯(Ellen Greaves)等人进行的一些最新研究显示,英国的家长会理智地衡量学校的教学质量。家长们都喜欢贫困率较低的学校——这也许会加剧社会隔离——但似乎 并不在意种族。贫困家长与富裕家长的喜好大体相同。

This suggests that more choice can raise standards in British schools. The Conservative policy is well worth trying. But there is one more obstacle: the Tories need to be willing to shut less successful schools if standards are truly to rise. This has proved a tough sell in Sweden. Will David Cameron's softer, kinder Tories do better?

这说明,增加选择能够提高英国学校的水准。保守党的政策很值得一试。但还存在一个障 碍:要想真的提高学校水准,保守党必须愿意关闭那些不那么成功的学校。这在瑞典进行得相当艰难。戴维•卡梅伦(David Cameron)更温和、更仁慈的保守党会表现得更好吗?