The myth of “free” education

Abolish free education and introduce need-based subsidies.

Education should not be free precisely because it is a great necessity and a noble profession. The more valuable a service is, it is all the more important that those who provide it be compensated in full, and those who receive it pay for what they receive. That is the theory.

In practice we have an objection: if education must be paid for, does that mean education is only for those who have the means to pay? In theory, yes — nobody can be forced to support anybody other than his/her own family.

In practice, living in an educated society is in everybody’s interest — an educated society is usually a civilized society. Even when my tax money is paying for non-tax-paying family’s education needs, I ultimately benefit.

Need-based subsidies

But why should the student who comes to school by bus and the student who comes to school in a BMW both be educated free of charge? The latter can clearly afford it. And then there are middle class families that can afford a portion of the cost. This is why subsidies should be NEED-BASED. Blanket welfare programs unnecessarily and unfairly burden the taxpayer.

Subsidize a percentage off a student’s tuition fees based on his family’s gross income. For very low income families this will be 100%. For most school children in public schools the typical value will be above 50% — perhaps something like 70%.

Higher income families will get only a small subsidy. We use GROSS income because a low net income after a BMW doesn’t mean that the family can’t afford tuition. It means that the family has its priorities wrong, for which the tax payer cannot be held responsible. If a family feels that a public school is not worth the subsidy, they may choose a private one.

Maintaining confidentiality about the subsidies is important. An adult need not be shielded from the social consequences of his status, wealth or background. Those are realities. But a child, whose personality is still forming, must be protected from them.

As an adult, I can tolerate being the poor man in a rich group. As a schoolboy, it would have hurt me and contributed to the development of an inferiority complex. Payments made directly to the department of education and not to the school may solve the problem. I’ll leave the other issues for some other time.

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One Response to The myth of “free” education

  1. venus says:

    Free primary and seconday education is necessary in Sri Lanka. Where we can make a change is with tertiary education, if they were charged a fee there would be a lesser number of students running amok in university doing everything except thier studies.
    What we need is a system like many of the western countries, where govrnemnt loan schemes are in place for all students to cover thier university fees, which are then paid back in installments once the student finds employment. This way they will think twice before wasting government money and their own time in universities.

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