Scanning the world: Alternatives to Public Schools

cape20.v033.i01.coverReports in both academic journals and news publications from around the world show that alternatives to conventional public schools, including migrant schools, private vocational schools, and unaccredited schools, have been a recent topic in the news as many countries try to meet the diverse needs and demands of growing populations.

In the latest issue of The Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Sang Kook Lee examines “Migrant schools in the Thailand-Burma borderland: from the informal to the formal.”  The article explores the existence of migrant schools and how they enable children to “have their own education even in the absence of proper legal status.” The growth of these schools indicate the building up of migrant education institutions. For example, since the mid-2000s, Thailand has supported migrant schools in an attempt to “regularize them as learning centers” under the guidance of the government. The article argues that government interest in these unaccredited schools does not indicate a victory of the state over migrants, and migrant schools; instead, they believe it shows the impressive growth of migrant education, which has “achieved recognition from the state as a legitimate formal institution.”

As noted in an earlier post, China has also addressed the issue of migrant schools; however, China decided to shut down the schools and change policy to allow non-native students to attend public schools. While some of these schools were deemed unsafe, parents lamented the loss of the private institutions that they believed their children to be both happy, and learning.

Recently, an article in The New York Times  titled “Trade Schools Offer Hope for Rural Migrants in China,” highlighted the issue of funding for private-run vocational schools operating in China. According to the article,

“While China has long had state-run vocational schools, critics say that they are bogged down by bureaucracy and overwhelmed by the huge number of youths who need training. Private enterprises like BN Vocational School can fill that gap, but only with the outside funding needed to be able to train poor students for free.”

Schools like BN Vocational School operate with support from charities, corporations, and both the Chinese and foreign governments.

Meanwhile, as reported in The Hankyoreh, in “More unaccredited schools popping up to offer international-style education,” South Korean parents have been paying exorbitant tuition rates send their children to unaccredited alternative educational facilities that provide an education that is “not recognized as regular schooling by the Ministry of Education.” Since these schools do not have to report what they teach or register with the government, they are not subject to regulations. Many focus on international education and immersive English education, and charge such high tuition that they are not available for low-income families. While some have called for the government to regulate the excessively high cost of these schools, the government is searching for ways to satisfy the demand for alternative education through public schools, and “help unaccredited alternative schools become places that can serve the interests of the entire public.”

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