Ferguson deals with the weakness and failure of certain institutions in western societies and, amongst other things, makes a case for more choice in education, and increased use of fee paying as opposed to publicly financed schooling. Parents willingly pay for their children to participate in sports, the arts and other activities which can be considered educational. They are often reluctant to pay for basic education, which they see as the role of the state and paid for from taxation. About 7% of school age children attend private schools in Canada (about the samed in the US and UK), often for a cost of $22,000 a year with no government rebate from.
Other funding models are used, such as parents being able to choose the schools their children attend. Parents are given money by the state to pay the fees as opposed to the school being funded directly by the state. In this way, as with private schools, the buyer interacts directly with the supplier, and monitors the quality of the service provided. Note, as fees become a larger share of the cost of university and college attendance, students and their parents become more involved in the quality of the educational experience. How good is that quality?
One example Ferguson gives is that “In New York public schools, 62 per cent of third, fourth and fifth graders passed their maths exams last year. The latest figure at Harlem Success Academy was 99 per cent. For science it was 100 percent. And this is not because charter schools cherry-pick the best students or attract the most motivated parents. Students are admitted to Harlem Success by lottery. They do better because the school is both accountable and autonomous.” (129-130).
At the university level the US has 22 of the top 30 ranked universities in the world according to the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings. The point here is that the funding model used for educational institutions suggests that a mix of public and private funding improves the quality of the system as a whole. The same tends to be true for other sectors such as healthcare.
At some point, parents have to evaluate the system available to their children. This is not always easy as the reputations of schools, colleges and universities do not always reflect current conditions. One way to check is to talk to students (and their parents) who are currently enrolled or those who have recently graduated from different institutions.