Funding EducationReimer's proposal for a system for funding education:
1. Establish a bank. Deposit all the money that is currently spent by the government on education into the bank.
2. Establish accounts at the bank for all members of the population.
3. Give everyone an amount of money in their "education bank" account for use throughout their lifetime. Reimer suggests (in 1971) that $17000 should be enough for lifetime, about $250 per year.
4. The amount of money given to poor families might be significantly more than that given to well-off families, to compensate for cultural disadvantage and to balance missing opportunities to learn in the poorer households.
5. Individuals can withdraw their funds to pay for their education throughout their lifetime. They can choose how and where to spend the money - in formal colleges and universities, on-the-job training, professional development courses, acquiring new skills or by finding mentors out on the "education network". Schools that are not attractive to the cash-carrying clientele will close down. Others will expand.
6. Clients may choose not to use schools at all. Individuals may contract themselves out as "skill models" or pedagogues to educate students in small groups across the education network.
7. Individuals could borrow from the bank to pursue further education and training and then repay their loan by teaching and providing skills to other learners in the network.
8. Young people would not be required to attend high school but instead could find jobs and do training related to their chosen careers. This could apply to professions as well as trades. A 16 year old who wanted to become a doctor, for example, could become an "apprentice", similar to an intern but learning the basics of medical practice while deciding how to spend their education dollars for further education. This might be problematical with the current rate of youth unemployment - I think high school retention rates are important to the government to disguise unemployment. Currently in Australia, you cannot leave school if you do not have employment or a work-related training course to attend.
9. A lot of teachers would lose their jobs. While Reimer still sees a need for teachers of elementary literacy and numeracy skills, most other teachers would find themselves without permanent employment, perhaps modelling their skills part-time across the education network and spending the rest of their time "pursuing their explorations for other purposes as well."
10. The idea of maintaining this type of "account" for perpetuity underscores the importance and significance of life-long learning.
ConclusionThis is much more than an elaborate voucher system - this is a rethinking of the whole shape and style of how we get educated. I like the way Reimer's ideas are starting to come together, using his vision of the education network to extend learning outside the four walls of the classroom. I also like this consistent way he insists on freedom and justice as the cornerstones on which any decision must be made.
Is it practical? Could it ever work? Is it just "an idea"?
Well, it could only work if enough people want it to.