Preference stability and choices in education

One of the unique problems of choices in education is the length of time between a choice being made and completion of the choice.  For instance, when choosing a school the choice remains active from the time a child enters school until they finish many years later.  In this way choices in education are more complicated than those normally associated with experience goods. Characteristics of choices made may change over time as the child grows. The choice needs to be continuously experienced in order make judgements about whether it is the ‘right’ choice.


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Breaking down the myth that we need competition to make education policy work

An article published in The Australian today Push for universities to share students‘ discussed some of my views regarding the lessons we have learnt from deregulating the schools sector and the consequential impact on the ‘market’ dynamics of educational institutions (i.e. how universities behave).  One of the myths put forward as a reason for deregulating fees within the higher education sector in Australia is the (misguided) belief that competition in student fees will lead to institutional diversity.  However, when it comes to experience goods in education, student (parent) risk aversion leads to a strong preference for universities (schools) to offer the largest range of subjects possible given available funds.  This leads to the crowding of efficiencies from specialization and potentially sacrifices educational quality if the competition is intense.

The main driver of student (parent) risk aversion is the high switching costs associated with changing misinformed choices.  This happens a lot with experience goods where there is little opportunity to repeatedly test choices.  Choices in education are completely different to consumer purchases of milk or bread for example.  Where a bad choice is low cost and easily rectified. Continue reading

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