Protectionism in education leads to outsourcing

Amity Shlaes contends that too much protectionism in the US education sector is a key driver of outsourcing. She argues that US schools are monopolies, prone to lobbying by special-interest groups, and have lost sense of their original mandate. The resulting fall in quality of output manifested by fall in the standards of school graduates has been obfuscated by dropping overall standards. Net result – a workforce underprepared for globalisation

The national panic over outsourcing is driving US lawmakers to come up with new forms of protectionism. This is a shame, both for those of us who see some value in outsourcing and for those who disapprove of it. For the protectionist, panic obscures an important American reality: that outsourcing was encouraged in the first place by too much protectionism in a specific US industry: education.

We are not speaking of America’s boarding schools or MBA programmes, whose waiting lists include hopefuls from Dusseldorf and Seoul. The problem lies with workaday publicly funded grammar and secondary schools, especially in cities. These are the factories that produce the national workforce. Yet, for the past quarter-century, they have had little competition and have enjoyed a lack of scrutiny that would make Parmalat blush…

Not that the US will necessarily fail to confront that challenge. One of the wonderful and astounding things about America is the way sheer innovative power has always made up for lack of formal learning. This can be the case again. Besides, all efforts at protectionism collapse sooner or later. Perhaps outsourcing will accelerate the collapse of school protectionism, forcing reforms that generate stronger workers. If so, the more outsourcing, the better.[Financial Times]

I agree with the view that as globalisation begins to pervade every sector of every economy, the best policy response is investing in education.

1 thought on “Protectionism in education leads to outsourcing”

  1. The recent Straits Times articles on British graduates training to become plumbers or car repairmen shows that chasing paper qualifications is a waste of time. Like Paul Krugman states in his astute 100-year forecast ‘White Collar Turns Blue'(

    “Eventually, of course, the eroding payoff to higher education created a crisis in the education industry itself. Why should a student put herself through four years of college and several years of postgraduate work in order to acquire academic credentials with hardly any monetary value? These days jobs that require only six or twelve months of vocational training — paranursing, carpentry, household maintenance (a profession that has taken over much of the housework that used to be done by unpaid spouses), and so on — pay nearly as much as one can expect to earn with a master’s degree, and more than one can expect to earn with a Ph.D.. And so enrollment in colleges and universities has dropped almost two-thirds since its turn-of-the-century peak. Many institutions of higher education could not survive this harsher environment.”

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