The article expounds an approach to the assessment of the quality and accessibility of educational services based on polling of interested parties (parents, close relatives, and students themselves). The methodology was tested through representative telephone polling of users of educational services (pre-school, school, vocational and higher education) in the Tver and Novosibirsk Regions. As a result, a substantial discrepancy was established between the basic idea, declared by the developers of the state budget reform, of creating a competitive environment in the field of education and the actual efforts to implement this idea. An overwhelming majority of the population in the two regions either have heard nothing about the transformations being carried out or regard them as part of a commercialization of the market of social services and abrogation of the right to free education in Russia.
Institutions affect investment decisions, including investments in human capital. Hence institutions are relevant for the allocation of talent. Good market-supporting institutions attract talent to productive value-creating activities, whereas poor ones raise the appeal of rent-seeking. We propose a theoretical model that predicts that more talented individuals are particularly sensitive in their career choices to the quality of institutions, and test these predictions on a sample of around 95 countries of the world. We find a strong positive association between the quality of institutions and graduation of college and university students in science, and an even stronger negative correlation with graduation in law. Our findings are robust to various specifications of empirical models, including smaller samples of former colonies and transition countries. The quality of human capital makes the distinction between educational choices under strong and weak institutions particularly sharp. We show that the allocation of talent is an important link between institutions and growth.