Saturday, 17 February 2007

I went to the dentist this morning...

I am always amazed at the service I get at my dentist. I know I have been going for years but his knowledge of me and my family is simply amazing... I am not sure but either he has an amazing memory or he has a great database! I was terrified of the dentist as a child but dentistry has changed so much over the years... from a painful place, reminiscent of the butchers, to a high-tech, sparkling pain-free heaven.

I suppose it's that thing about getting what you pay for... we all pay for dentistry now and we all expect and get such a lot in return. Perhaps that's the answer with schooling... would we expect and get so much more if it wasn't free at the point of delivery... if we had to pay something. The real trouble is that if anything is 'apparently' free we seem to take it forgranted and we don't care if the service is poor. What do you think?


set said...

There's some truth that it's a perceived thing that 'you get what you pay for in life'. Certainly companies positioning their products in the market place as premium brands fix prices 're-assuringly expensive' to support this in their customers' minds.

To relate to education one must consider the differing expectations of parents who choose to educate their children privately, with those opting for state. No doubt the former assume, perhaps correctly, that they will indeed receive a superior service, otherwise why bother. The enduring existance of private education though suggests more than a perceived confirmation of this. Obviously there could be many factors attributing towards this, class size being perhaps the most widely agreed upon.

So are expectations lower in state simply because it is free?

About a year ago Blair promised to raise state funding per child to the then current average level of funding in the private sector. If I recall correctly when his sound-bite was questioned he detailed that he meant state funding per child would be equivalent to that in the private sector in 2006 by 2010. Not quite the same thing!

If you expect to get what you pay for, then it would be wrong to expect the same from a state education system which aquired a lower level of funding per child than that in the private sector. Do you hear the distant rumble of 'top up fees'?

If you do then I assume you are of the opinion that someone somewhere thinks that the state education system is not 'fit for purpose'! If you don't hear those distant rumbles then you're probably of the opinion that someone somewhere thinks that state education currently offers reasonable value for money.

By the way, last week I uncovered an elaborate plot led by a group enterprising school children in Cumbria to construct an underground gas pipeline into Russia. They'd genetically engineered a smart carrot to give them 20/20 night vision so that they could industriously stay on-task in their sub-terrainian world. They intended using their pipeline to create an OPEC style stability in the gas supply market. Fortunately the school cook, blonde shoulder length hair, turned out to be an undercover operative from the Ukraine. With her help I re-programmed their sat nav 40 degrees north directing them headfirst into a refugee camp nestled beside Hadrian's Wall. The camp was bursting with desperate teachers hoping to get into in the devolved lands where they perceive the staffrooms to be lined with gold. Foolishly they'd forgotten you get what your paid for.

Fortunately for British Gas shareholders the desperate teachers seized the opportunity to re-educate the feral Bloefeld's and as their efforts were free the expectations of the children were soon lowered to a more manageable level. They now plan to use their tunnel as place to drink 're-assuringly cheep' cider and recycle the discarded plastic bottles into hash pipes.

Sleep well, the world has been saved although K says I can't keep the Ukrainian spy even though she makes me feel nice.

Pat said...

Interesting and amusing perspective. I think I see it differently.

The issue for me is that we should be regularly be reminded of the cost of public services that are precieved as "free". This very act will enable those of us swept up by capitalism (including sadly our brothers and sisters from Russia and the Ukraine, and every teacher I have ever met) to reassess our perspective of these services. As a minimum it will highligh the differt investment made in the private sector. It might even, as Chris suggests, enable a fundamental reassessment of the quality of the service and our value of it!