Capitalism and Education Systems in the United States of America and New Zealand

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Capitalism has had a vast influence over global education systems for the past two decades especially, with features such as privatisation, urbanisation, displacement and gentrification being apparent and coming from this change in theory for society. Capitalism is an economic and political system whereby a country’s trade and industry exchanges are composed by private owners who enterprise for personal profit, rather than state controls (Trundle, 2019). The effects of capitalism have been vastly apparent for societies who exhibit this philosophy, with many impacts being observable in the education system.

Due to the rise of capitalism, schools have been privatised, closing public schools and opening private ones which do not always cater to the needs of the community. This, therefore, leads to consequences such as urbanisation, displacement and gentrification which are not favourable circumstances for many people in their given society. Prime examples of these situations are apparent in the United States of America and New Zealand. Capitalism has influenced changes in administration and management of education systems, thus leading to the aforementioned consequences and other outcomes which have created often detrimental positions for small communities.

Capitalist ideas have arisen from a defence against totalitarianism, applicable in many forms which change regionally across the globe (Trundle, 2019). There is no simple or one form of capitalism. Capitalism has the power of influence over many realms of society, with education systems being one sphere capitalist ideas are increasingly prevalent in. Education systems are powered by administration and management which use ideas such as those reinforced by capitalism to govern their schemes. Increasingly, due to this, the education system has been dominated by privatisation, a key idea in capitalism, whereby public schools are being closed down in favour of private schools. Depending on the circumstances of the individual, this can either be detrimental to ones’ education, or a largely successful endeavour. Detrimental effects of privatisation include the need to urbanise, full displacement and gentrification.

Positive effects for students include their ability to excel due to receiving specialised teaching and paramount resources. The adaptability of a person and their accessibility to education often defines whether or not they are able to partake in a fulfilling education under capitalist circumstances. Part of the realm of capitalism is the logic of the Protestant ethic whereby fulfilment is achieved by success, resulting in wealth and the achievement of eternal salvation (Brittanica Academic, 2019). Thus, with this idea, capitalists seek the most efficient and high-achieving education, in which they would often choose to partake in a private school education if able. Capitalist education systems allow for this, as the number of private schools increases to cater to the needs of capitalist students who wish to succeed and become wealthy.

The decline of the role of the government due to the role of capitalism has focused the curriculum of education systems on the dynamics of the economy, innovation and growth; ideas of capitalism (Priest, 2012). Under the realm of capitalism, there are winners and losers. In the sphere of education, the winners are the ones who can afford to partake in private education and therefore obtain a high-quality education and become wealthy. The losers are the ones who are unable to attend private school due to accessibility and fee complications, leaving them without education or a sub-par education compared to those who are willing and able to attend a private school.

Due to capitalistic ideals, privatisation of education systems has occurred throughout societies leading to the closure of public domains and the creation of more private schools than ever before in history. The rise of capitalism has been vast over the past decades, and thus, the increase in private education spheres enlarges with this body of thought and action. Over the past two decades especially, privatisation has been termed the ‘quick fix’ for the public sector and government controls in order to promote the change of values, priorities and associated behaviours (Wilson, 2002 p.195).

This theory focuses on transparency, interests of stakeholders and management (Halley, 2010), influencing education systems globally through personal interest and vendettas, creating circumstances that are ideal for some and detrimental to others in a community. The philosophy is based on the free market and privatisation of assets for economic success. As capitalistic ideas become more prevalent in societies globally, a shift increasingly occurs as the education system become more privatised, closing public schools and producing private schools. Private schools have therefore become more apparent, with the influence of this observable across the globe as capitalism becomes increasingly universal.

The common presence of these private schools can be observed in many regions that portray capitalistic ideals, such as New Zealand. Transfers have occurred whereby previously state-owned facilities and infrastructure are taken over by privately owned enterprises and institutions, increasing privatisation (Halley, 2010). New Zealand education systems and schools are one of the areas where this process has occurred frequently, as state-owned or contributed schools are bought out by private investors and become privatised. Currently, in New Zealand, there are eighty-nine private schools listed (Education Counts, 2019) as this country demonstrates capitalism and the process of privatisation occurs vastly. The prevalence of private schools has increased since the apparent capitalist society has been observed widely in New Zealand.

Privatisation in this form has lead to many New Zealand children partaking in this ideal, some willingly, some due to necessity, due to changes in the policy and administration of the New Zealand education system. Furthermore, in the Chicago area of the United States alone, there are four-hundred and nine private schools (Private School Review, 2019). The increase in privatisation due to capitalism has lead to a growth of private schools, and the closure of public schools which tend to be more accessible to the community. For instance, private schools tend to have higher tuition fees, making the lower-middle economic class less able to afford their children’s tuition at a private school. However, as the prevalence of public schools decreases due to privatisation, accessibility of schools to some individuals decreases as they are unable to attend a public or private school. This may be due to the distance from their dwelling, higher tuition fees at private facilities and other circumstances, often leading to a weaker community.

Privatisation of education systems and therefore schools has meant that for some people, education, in general, is less accessible, leading to some children missing out on the education they deserve and are entitled to. Importantly, research concludes that “successful high schools result from strong communities” (Coleman, Hoffer, 1987 p.41), therefore, weakened communities created from privatisation induce conditions of less successful high schools. However, in other cases, students excel due to their private education. This is due to teachers often being specialised in private institutions, and smaller class sizes, with competition also apparent between schools, creating circumstances of efficiency gains. This is due to both public and private schools competing for students, improving the quality of education and maximising resources whilst minimising expenses (Patrinos, 2010). Privatisation evidently has both benefits and negative consequences associated with it in the education system and the circumstances relatable to the individual depends on their way of life, class and economic positioning.

Urbanisation is the process whereby people migrate from rural areas to urban centres and cities, increasing the population of the urban environment, and is a further process that has become increasingly prevalent globally due to capitalism. The displacement or movement of people due to urbanisation is apparent as people migrate to attend schools for their academic gain. This is due to the theory that capitalism presents based off the Protestant ethic that we may feel fulfilled via an extensive stream of wealth through economic rationalism (Carr, 2003), which may be obtained through paramount education. A high-achieving primary and high school education through attendance at a private institution may lead to an individual securing a high paying job, in which global education systems are the foundation for. As prevalent in Chicago of the United States of America, capitalist urbanisation has lead to urban neoliberalism, a consequence of capitalised education systems.

Neoliberalism is a theory of governance contrived from ideals of freedom from intrusive state interference, deregulation, privatisation, small government, financial markets, incentives, personal autonomy and responsibility (Trundle, 2019). Education markets in Chicago have contributed to the emergence of education policy based on ideas of capitalism and leading to neoliberal urban development (Brogan, 2013). Underlying these ideas are logics of white supremacy and capital accumulation which have lead to urbanisation through rational budget crises; laying off thousands of teachers, closing schools, increasing class sizes, diminishing teachers’ pensions and standardising test scores with teacher evaluation systems (Brogan, 2013).

Education reform is thus prevalent in Chicago schools with backing from capitalists derived from private educational companies, leading to the closure of more than one-hundred public schools in recent years (Lipman, 2017). Education reform causing urbanisation have compiled drastic changes to cities such as Chicago, and others that portray capitalist ideas as they gain backing from private educational companies and non-profit organisations. These establishments hold beliefs away from those of the state and the values of the government. Moreover, the New Zealand school-aged population and their families have encountered urbanisation due to the increasing production of schools in urban areas and few schools prevalent in rural areas. Due to accessibility, students are forced to migrate into urban areas in order to attend school as over seventy-five per cent of the population of New Zealand lives in urban centres (Knight, 1978). This statistic provides cause for private and public schools to be built, under the administration of the New Zealand education system, in the urban centres of the country.

The twenty per cent of the population that still dwells in rural areas are thus often forced to urbanise and dwell urbanely to ensure an efficient education is gained, otherwise partake in home-schooling, or by other inefficient means like travelling a long distance to attend school in a public or private sphere. Urbanisation is a capitalist scheme that forces people to migrate to the urban centres of their given region or beyond, often to obtain an education. This is due to limited opportunities in rural areas. Schools are typically based in urban areas to suit the seventy-five per cent of the population that dwell there, but the education system tends to neglect the ideals of the rural population who then have to travel vast distances to attend school, forcing them to move closer, or be satisfied with a less fulfilling educational scheme.

Displacement and gentrification are further adverse effects of capitalist ideas that are influenced by education systems. Displacement due to the ideas of a capitalist society is a process that is vastly applicable to those who pursue this form of governance as it is the forced movement or migration of a person/s from their locality or home. Often, this destroys many forms of wealth, and occurs in circumstances that make way for new urban planning; white supremacy is a widely known consequence of capitalism and it has an influence on education policy in America specifically. Displacement has occurred widely for African American and Latino communities that are not included in education policy in America (Lipman, 2011a), often as a result of white supremacy propositions. As a direct result of education policy restructure in America, African American and Latina families have been displaced from where they work, attended school and live; they are forced to leave their homes (Brogan, 2013). The closure of public schools has further lead to the displacement of African American and Latino children, leading to their placement in less academically achieving schools elsewhere (Brogan, 2013).

The increased prevalence of white supremacy due to capitalist ideas of educational system reform has meant the displacement of families from America, leading to less favourable circumstances, with specific impacts on the involved children’s education. Furthermore, gentrification is a process associated with capitalism that has occurred globally due to changes in the education system. Gentrification is the renovation or improvement of certain areas of a place to conform to middle-class taste, often displacing many people that do not conform to this status, often occurring due to capitalism. Many cities are composed of luxury zones and hardship zones as a result of capitalism, as the privatisation of facilities and infrastructure occurs to develop certain areas and diminish the rest. The closure of public schools associated with this causes differentiated opportunities for children to learn, grooming devaluation and gentrification (Lipman, 2017). The process of gentrification has been prevalent in areas such as New York City for decades as the police work to enforce curfews to vacate homeless from the urban environment.

Often homelessness has been caused by a lack of education, if the individual has not had access to a fulfilling academic life they are bound to be less likely to be able to attain a career. The privatisation of schools due to the ideas capitalism promotes would mean that some people are less likely to complete their schooling in the public schooling sphere and as private schools tend to be a lot more expensive to attend, some people are unable or unwilling to partake in this educational system. Thus, displacement and gentrification are results of capitalist propositions, resulting from conforms of educational systems based on capitalist society’s objectives. These outcomes make life more difficult for many people who are affected by it as they are thus unable to partake in education or are less likely to succeed well in the system due to prejudice and sway from capitalist ideas.

Elements of capitalism have led to the consequences aforementioned and thus affected societies that observe the capitalist ideals in vast ways. Privatisation, urbanisation, displacement and gentrification have had adverse effects on societies globally, with specific effects being observable in the education systems of communities in America and New Zealand. Similar outcomes are observable in both of these countries as different forms of capitalism are prevalent, but their effects are similar. The education system has experienced affluent changes over the past decades as capitalist ideas become more prevalent in various societies, with differing effects on people of the community depending on their circumstances and ways of life.

The privatisation of schools can be highly advantageous for some and very damaging for others, as with the education policy reform mentioned. The diverse effects of these capitalist processes create circumstances that are efficient and effective for some parts of society but also causes impacts that make communities structurally unsound. Education systems have been vastly impacted by the ideals of capitalism, with adverse effects presenting themselves in society for decades. As capitalism continues to increase its prevalence in societies globally, these impacts will become more extensive, therefore, more students will become superior to others in the realm of education and the inferior students will suffer the consequences.


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Cite this paper

Capitalism and Education Systems in the United States of America and New Zealand. (2021, Jan 11). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/capitalism-and-education-systems-in-the-united-states-of-america-and-new-zealand/



How does capitalism relate to education?
Capitalism and education are interrelated as education is seen as an investment in human capital to enhance productivity and competitiveness, which in turn fuels economic growth and prosperity in a capitalist system. However, critics argue that the commodification of education under capitalism leads to inequality and reinforces existing power structures.
Is education part of capitalism?
In a capitalist society, education is seen as a way to get ahead, to make more money. So while education is not part of capitalism per se, it is definitely encouraged and incentivized.
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