School choice might be good for the individual, but education experts have warned it can have an adverse impact on society more broadly by lowering education performance of children across the board.
Grattan Institute school education program director, Peter Goss, told The Sydney Morning Herald Schools Summit this week that a disadvantaged student who also goes to a disadvantaged school "performs about two years worse by year 10".
"For individuals it varies. At a society-wide level the education outcomes are bad," Dr Goss said.
"It drags down the average. It reinforces educational disadvantage and potentially weakens the social fabric.
Dr Goss said choice is often linked with competition and ... that only those who do better will survive. But competition was not working "to lift all boats".
"It is a really messy part of our system and one that is not going away," Dr Goss said.
Bryce Grant, principal of Asquith Boys High School on Sydney's Upper North Shore, told the forum that his school's biggest competition was the local co-educational school.
"But I think choice is a good thing," he said.
"Coming through our school [parents and students] will see we we have to offer... a niche in the market.
"If they come to us and they are not happy with what we have to offer, then they do have that choice to go to a co-educational school."
Chris Presland, president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council said the question was whether real choice of schools really existed for all families.
"In theory I have a choice between a Maserati and a Hyundai, but I don't have the resources to exercise that choice," he said.
"When you talk about choice for parents in terms of the school that they send their children to, it is subject to all sorts of constraints."
Mr Presland said in Finland, "the best school is the nearest school".
"There are no special schools. They work really hard to ensure they have equitable outcomes for everyone," he said.
Mr Presland said Finland had high levels of equity and high levels of education performance.
"In Australia, we are at the other end of the scale. We are very high performing system but very
Andrea Connell, principal of the selective Sydney Girls High School said she agreed with Mr Presland that true choice was not available to all families.
"School shopping indicates there is a price," she said. "This is not available to all families and until that opportunity is, then I think we are facing this quite vexed problem."