School zoning—don’t go there
I was overjoyed to hear the Minister of Education Tim Gopeesingh mention Finland in his remarks about the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) system a few days ago. I was also pleased to hear him thinking in terms of raising the bar for failing public schools rather than gutting the successful ones in the name of equality. For too often, the national conversation seems to have revolved around sniping at “prestige” schools with all manner of fault-finding, rather than fairly assessing the strengths and weaknesses of all public schools in an attempt to improve all.
I’d especially like to remind all that the wealthy will never be disadvantaged.
They will not allow their children to be disadvantaged when it comes to education either. Any move to strict zoning will have two consequences:
1. Neighbourhoods with the most desirable schools will face high demand. This already happens in the United States.
2. Where this is not possible, the wealthy will remove their children and resources from public education altogether.
Finally I’d like to return to the Minister’s comments about Finland. I’d like to underscore that Finland’s commitment to excellence in education stems from a prioritisation of equality that pervades Scandinavian society. In simple terms, societal equality trumps all.
In the absence of a seachange in our societal and governmental mindset and priorities, emulating Finland in the field of education alone is bound to fail. Currently, it seems that our highly class-based society only really works for the wealthy. One look at the health-care, justice and public transport systems will confirm that.
Ultimately I believe many of the challenges the Minister will face while trying to reform the education system cannot be addressed in isolation from other government ministries, or the opposition or the public at large.