As regular readers of the Foundry know, Congress has recently moved to end the popular and effective D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, denying low-income families the chance to attend a school of their parents’ choice. Meanwhile, other countries are pushing forward with plans to give all parents school choice.
In September, Heritage’s Stuart Butler looked at the Sweden’s popular universal school voucher that began in 1992. Now, Lance Izumi of the Pacific Research Institute explains that Qatar, the small Persian Gulf nation, is planning to move forward with a universal school voucher program:
Qatar’s voucher program, which is just being implemented this year, is part of the country’s comprehensive reform effort called “Education for a New Era.” The voucher amount will be equivalent to the per-pupil funding allotment for government-run schools. It is envisioned that this amount will pay for the majority of private-school fees, with parents paying the rest. Initially, the number of private schools will be limited, but over time that number should increase until the system is universal, with vouchers available to all Qatari parents.
“Parents will have options to select a school of their choice that suits the needs of their children,” says Adel al-Sayed, a top-ranking official at the Supreme Education Council (SEC), Qatar’s national education agency. The voucher program was adopted because it meets the principles that the SEC says inform Qatar’s education policies: schools should be autonomous, schools should be held accountable for student learning, and parents should exercise increasing levels of choice in selecting the best school for their children from a growing number of alternatives.
Parental options are a key element of internationally competitive education in the 21st century, as more countries are recognizing.