2010年12月17日 星期五

Why education fails the poor

Why education fails the poor

Students took to the streets of London last month to protest against a stiff increase in course fees.


I can hardly blame them, but the fee increase is not the great injustice that they claim. In one sense it is unfair, of course: earlier generations of students paid less. Some paid nothing at all. My Oxford education was free – as was that of David Cameron, who did the same course in the same college less than a decade before me – and I am grateful.

我很难责怪他们,但学费上涨并不是他们所宣称的最大不公。从某种意义上说,这当然是不 公平的:前几届学生付的费用较少。还有人根本就没有付费。戴维·卡梅伦(David Cameron)在牛津(Oxford)接受的教育是免费的;我也一样——我比他入学晚了近10年,在同一所学院学习了相同的课程。对此我很感激。

But was that free education an example of great social progress? Cameron’s family was hardly poor. He did well enough out of his Oxford education. Is it really outrageous to suggest that he, rather than taxpayers, should have paid for some of it?


And while the percentage of under-thirties attending university rose from 5 per cent to 35 per cent between 1960 and 2000 – with a surge during the early 1990s – it is still the preserve of relatively wealthy families. According to the economists Jo Blanden (University of Surrey and LSE) and Steve Machin (LSE and UCL) this expansion actually widened the participation gap between richer and poorer children. (To oversimplify, only kids from well-off families go to university, but whereas it was once just the bright boys, now the girls and the dim boys also get to go.)

虽然从1960年至2000年,英国30岁以下年轻人就读大学的比例从5%提高到了 35%——上世纪90年代初的升幅尤为迅猛,但高等教育依然是相对富裕家庭的专利。根据萨里大学(University of Surrey)和伦敦政治经济学院(LSE)经济学家乔•布莱登(Jo Blanden),以及伦敦政治经济学院和伦敦大学(UCL)经济学家麦展勋(Steve Machin)的研究,这种扩张实际上拉大了贫富家庭子女就读大学的差距。(如果以过分简单的方式来讲,那就是只有富裕家庭的子女才能上大学,只不过以前 只接收聪明的男孩,如今女孩和笨男孩也都能上大学了。)

In short, a university education is a valuable product, largely consumed by the sons and daughters of well-off families, which plays a major role in ensuring that the sons and daughters are themselves well off – and, helps them to marry each other. This is the perk that students demand that the taxpayer should provide.


Of course, raising fees will discourage students a little. My reading of a recent study, commissioned by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and conducted by researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Institute for Education, is that adding an extra £5,000 of annual tuition fees, and funding that with an extra £5,000 of cheap loans, would dent higher education participation by about 6 percentage points. That is bad news (and subject to a high margin of error). But regressive? No.

当然,不断上涨的费用会让学生们有点灰心。我近期读到英国商业、创新和技术部 (BIS)授权、财政研究所(IFS)和教育研究所(Institute for Education)研究员实施的一项研究。研究显示,如果每年再增加5000英镑学费,以5000英镑额外的低息贷款作为资金来源,将使高等教育的参与 度下挫6个百分点。虽然这是个坏消息(也存在很高的误差率),但这算是倒退吗?非也。

If you want something to get angry about, I wouldn’t look at tuition fees. I’d look at a little graph produced by Leon Feinstein of the Institute for Education, which shows tests of cognitive development given to almost 2,500 children at the age of 22 months, 42 months, five years and 10 years. The very brightest 22-month-old working-class kids were inexorably overhauled by the very dimmest children of professional or managerial parents – apparently by the age of about seven, and emphatically by the age of 10.

如果要对某些问题表达不满,我不会盯着学费,而会着眼于教育研究所的莱昂•范斯坦 (Leon Feinstein)制作的小图表,它展示了对近2500名儿童在22个月、42个月、5岁和10岁阶段进行的认知发展测试结果。在大约7岁时,22个月 大的群体中最聪明的工薪阶层的孩子,就会明显地为父母是专业人士或管理阶层的最笨的孩子无情地超越——到10岁时更为显著。

Research by Jo Blanden and by Paul Gregg and Lindsey Macmillan of the University of Bristol, underlines this. We know that “income persistence” is high in the UK – that is, parents wealthier than average have kids who also grow up to be wealthier. In other words, social mobility is low. We also know that education seems to play a strong role in this: countries such as Denmark have egalitarian schools and low income persistence. Blanden, Gregg and Macmillan have found that you can predict much of this income persistence simply by looking at exam results at age 16. Higher education is the icing on the cake.

乔•布莱登以及布里斯托大学(Bristol University)的保罗•格雷格(Paul Gregg)和林赛•麦克米伦(Lindsey Macmillan)的研究凸显了这一点。我们知道,英国的“收入连续性”较高,即比平均水平更为富有的父母,其子女长大后也会更为富有。换言之,就是社 会流动性低。我们还知道,教育似乎在其间扮演了重要角色——诸如丹麦这样的国家,教育比较公平,收入连续性也较低。布莱登、格雷格和麦克米伦发现,你只要 看看16岁时的考试成绩,就可以大致对这种收入连续性做出预测。高等教育只是锦上添花。

The real problem in British education starts very early indeed. Subsidising tuition fees for relatively prosperous students is not the solution. Subsidising poorer kids to stay on at school after 16 might help – although even that is too late for many – but this is a policy which the coalition government is set to scrap. It’s the three- and four-year-olds from poor families who have for decades been let down by this country’s education system. But toddlers don’t take to the streets in protest, no matter how right their cause might be.

英国教育的真正问题始于低龄阶段。为相对富裕的学生补贴学费并非解决之道。资助相对贫 穷的孩子,让他们在16岁之后仍然能接受教育,或许会有帮助——尽管这对许多人来说已经太晚了——然而,这项政策却是联合政府决心要废除的。这个国家的教 育体制几十年来所耽误的,正是贫穷家庭3至4岁的孩子。但是,蹒跚学步的孩子们不会走上街头抗议,无论他们的理由多么正当。