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Random Facts

This month's random fact is about the hallowed institution: The school system. Public education is universally available. School curricula, funding, teaching, and other policies are set through locally elected school boards with jurisdiction over school districts with many directives from state legislatures. School districts are usually separate from other local jurisdictions, with independent officials and budgets. Educational standards and standardized testing decisions are usually made by state governments.

In most countries, it is compulsory for children to attend school up to a certain age, but the option of attending private school is open to many. In the case of private schooling, schools operate independently of the state and generally defray their costs (or even make a profit) by charging students tuition fees. The funding for state schools, on the other hand, is provided by tax revenues, so that even individuals who do not attend school (or whose dependents do not attend school) help to ensure that society is educated. In poverty stricken societies, authorities are often lax on compulsory school attendance because the children there are valuable laborers. It is these same children whose income-securing labor cannot be forfeited to allow for school attendance. The term "public education" when applied to state schools is not synonymous with the term "publicly funded education". Government may make a public policy decision that it wants to have some financial resources distributed in support of, and it may want to have some control over, the provision of private education. Grants-in-aid of private schools and voucher systems provide examples of publicly funded private education. In some countries, such as Germany, private associations or churches can operate schools according to their own principles, as long as they comply with certain state requirements. When these specific requirements are met, especially in the area of the school curriculum, the schools will qualify to receive state funding. Proponents of state education assert it to be necessary because of the need in modern society for people who are capable of reading, writing, and doing basic mathematics. However, some libertarians argue that education is best left to the private sector. In most industrialized countries, these views are distinctly in the minority.

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