Tuesday, May 10, 2011

School Rankings...why are they not conducted by Council of Ministers of Education?

From the Frsaser Institute's Website:
Our vision is a free and prosperous world where individuals benefit from greater choice, competitive markets, and personal responsibility.

Our mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government interventions on the welfare of individuals.
This is the stated goal of the institute that, albeit through objective research techniques, purports to "rank" Canadian schools on their performance.
We all know that the researcher imprints the research with built-in biases, in all fields. When the funding for the research comes, for example, from the pharmaceutical industry seeking to licence a new drug, we know that the clinical trials will be, and are, skewed in the direction of approval.
In the case of the school rankings, there is a question in the mind of this scribe about the Fraser Institute's bias toward free markets and against organized labour, for a starter.
Competition, while valuable, is hardly the most important quality that needs development in, either an individual or a school. Just recently, I listened to the rankings of the schools in this area, and, without exception, those rankings portrayed more about the socio-economic conditions of the families in various regions than about the schools themselves. Clearly, the higher the socio-economic conditions, the better was the school ranking.
When will we see an independent research group, comprising both the perspectives of labour and corporate management, comprising all groups  in  the socio-economic spectrum, or perhaps a university's educational research department, conduct research into the performance of schools.
We need to monitor what is happening to our public schools. We fund them; we send our children to their care for many years. We need to know both how they are being measured and who they are being measured by. And governments, at their peril, fall victim to the only public "research" reputations that emerge from the rankings. And, it is time to call attention to the research methodology employed by the Fraser Institute, and to question why, for example, the Council of Ministers of Education is not funding the research of school performance.
Our public policy debates and the language that frames those debates emerges from such research, and if the agents of the research are impregnated with the philosopy and values of the right, then their research will reflect those values. And the public will be vulnerable to those conclusions.

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