Innovation in education

Markets in Education


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All OECD countries face the questions: Which governance models are most suitable to handle the increasingly complex and dynamic nature of education systems? Which governance models can provide education effectively and efficiently, contribute to equity, economic growth and innovation, while being responsive to the demands of students and parents?

Many OECD countries governments have been using elements of the market model as part of the answer to these questions. Some countries have started reforms along these lines from the 1980s onwards. There is a growing body of evidence on the impact of these reforms on the outcomes of education systems, but the evidence as of yet is fragmented and often inconclusive. At the same time the policy debate about market mechanism in education is very strong, with opposing parties basing themselves on first principles, if not ideology. Proponents claim that education markets would provide higher quality, more efficiency and more demand sensitivity; while opponents stress the danger of schools with increasingly unequal quality, unequal access to high quality schools and as a consequence segregation.

Project Objectives and Organisation

The proposed project was divided into three tracks and sought:

  • To improve our understanding of what we mean by markets in education, i.e.  to clarify the concept of market in education and create a clear map of what market mechanisms countries have  introduced to date.
  • To assess what the current evidence base is for the claims about the effect of market mechanisms on the outcomes of education systems, by reviewing the existing research on this topic.
  • To contribute to the future evidence-base by engaging in a number of small projects that directly complement or support research in this area while building on the strengths of the OECD and CERI. This track included:
    • One strand on the creation of an indicator on choice for Education at a Glance in order to create better comparative data on this issue.
    • A comparative strand where the introduction of market mechanisms in schooling was compared to similar developments in other levels of the education system and other public services to learn lessons from other fields.
    • A strand which focused on the question of whether schools and parents are actually engaging in competition and choice after the introduction of market mechanism, in order to arrive at a much deeper understanding of how these policies affect schooling.
    • A strand on “governing beyond the market”, which focused on the instruments of government that are most effective in the context of market reforms that have, for example, significantly increased school autonomy reducing the possibilities for direct, top-down steering of what goes on in schools.





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