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When in Rome, you act accordingly. The same can be said when one joins a school. Growing up in my native country in Africa, school choice was to a great extent determined by academic achievement, socioeconomic status, and school climate. These three variables were largely influenced by the three most important stakeholders in education, namely, student, parent/guardian and school leadership. Students with high academic abilities were guaranteed places in prestigious schools provided they were able to pay the tuition fees. And strong leadership was equated to a positive school climate which translated to high student enrollments. In most scenarios, the interplay of these three variables meant that each of the three stakeholders had a considerable measure of control when it came to school choice.

Importance of education is something that you learn at a very early age in Africa. This, perhaps, can be attributed to the fact that most African economies are still young (60 years on average, since gaining independence.). And therefore, to many parents/guardians, education is an investment vehicle that guarantees a yield of a better future for them and their children. However, it is also an investment that a reasonable number of parents/guardians cannot afford, unfortunately. 

During my elementary education, the educational arena in my county was not without the influence of the economic law of supply and demand, and among other influences. Good performing schools were invariably in great demand, and therefore, their tuition fees tended to be too high for most families. There were no policies on price ceiling at the time. Therefore, students with high academic abilities, but from low socioeconomic families mostly ended up losing their slots in good schools. And typically, ended up in low performing schools where their exemplary academic abilities diminished quickly. When in Rome, you act accordingly. 

Opportunity gaps between student groups result in generational opportunity relay races that unfortunately never stop and never can be won. School choice provides a means to bridge these gaps. As I wrap up my Ph.D. program in Evaluation and Measurement this year, I attribute my academic and professional achievements to the fact that my parents and I chose the right schools for me. School choice negates the negative effects that socioeconomic status has on opportunities that every child deserves. 


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