Media Releases

Education: Getting our money’s worth

Montreal, August 29, 2019 – The MEI is launching a publication today showing that education spending increased considerably between 2006 and 2016, even though the number of students in public schools went down. One has to wonder if the situation is sustainable in the long run, especially given that the number of students has rebounded since 2016 and will continue to grow substantially in the coming years.

Indeed, total spending on education, adjusting for inflation, increased by 14.1% from 2006 to 2016. Meanwhile, the number of students went the other way, falling by 3.6%. This means that real spending per student increased by 18.4% in ten years. Furthermore, over the next five years, the number of students is expected to increase another 7%, according to the government’s demographers, leading to additional spending of $1.7 billion, on top of the increases already budgeted.

“Education spending has skyrocketed in recent years, and the arrival of a greater number of students will only make the situation worse. We have to look at best practices from around the world if we want to succeed in reining in spending increases, and also take the opportunity to improve the quality of services provided to students,” points out Miguel Ouellette, Associate Researcher at the MEI and co-author of the publication.

Countries like Chile and Sweden have adopted pragmatic reforms favouring competition between schools, which improved the quality of services for students and led to a more efficient use of resources.

“In Sweden, schools receive a certain amount for each student they succeed in attracting, which forces them to be attractive. Administrators have to continually find new ways to satisfy the needs of students and their parents, since these are free to choose another school,” says Mr. Ouellette.

This system is very different from the one in place in Quebec, where public schools enjoy quasi-monopolies and become the default option in many regions. Even when there are several public schools close together, each student is assigned to a specific school based on postal code, unless the parents request an exemption, which is not always granted.

“Encouraging competition between schools, as is done in Sweden thanks to the existence of independent schools, would help promote both student success and better cost control, as has happened there. Given that we are facing increased demand and growing expenditures, Quebec should take some inspiration from comparable countries that have achieved good results,” concludes Luc Vallée, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Economist of the MEI, and co-author of the publication.

The Viewpoint entitled “Education: Controlling Spending While Improving Quality” was prepared by Miguel Ouellette, Associate Researcher at the MEI, and Luc Vallée, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Economist of the MEI. This publication is available on our website.

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The MEI is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications and media appearances, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing reforms based on market principles and entrepreneurship.


Interview requests: Daniel Dufort, Director of External Relations, MEI. Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2224 / Cell. 514-886-9919 / Email: ddufort@iedm.org

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