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Charter Schools Abroad: Another Sign of Globalization

The worldwide recession hasn't deterred international scholars from attending the American Educational Research Association's annual meeting this week in San Diego. More than 2,000 foreign education researchers, hailing from 73 countries — possibly a record — have shown up for the April 13-17 meeting.

A handful of their number yesterday, along with certain U.S. researchers, offered interesting perspectives on how charter-style schools operate in other countries. (Did you think the U.S. had the monopoly on that concept?)

Publicly financed, independently run schools in Qatar, for example, were allowed to earn a profit until policymakers in that country put an end to that practice in the last few years, according to Louay Constant, a RAND Corp. analyst who studied Qatar's education reforms. Even so, the wealthy Persian Gulf nation is well on its way to converting all its government ministry-run schools to charter-like entities. Already, the country's 87 independent schools enroll 60 percent of Qatar's schoolchildren, Constant said.

In Australia, the impetus for charter schooling came from Catholic schools, according to Jessica Harris, a researcher from Australia's Griffith University. She said the movement to establish that country's charter schools came after Catholic schools went on strike in one rural area, amid parental resentment over having to pay taxes for public schools their children. The schools' action dumped more than 1,000 students into the local public school system and helped persuade policymakers to allocate public funds for independent schools, including those that are religiously affiliated, Harris said.

And in the Canadian province of Alberta, where charter-like schools enroll a mere 1.1 percent of the school population, the schools are permitted to charge fees for transportation and instructional costs, according to Kat Thompson, an Alberta native and a researcher from Teachers College, Columbia University. (Charters are also allowed to charge fees, by the way, in Australia, Hong Kong, Qatar, and Singapore, according to researchers here.)

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