I have actually been thinking for several years that if the education system (in America anyway) was run more like a service industry, selling a product and considering our students as customers, it would probably have more success.
This isn't to say students would be more powerful in the classroom. It is more to say that students needs would drive teacher approach more than government mandated skills and test scores. Furthermore, if there was a way to put a price on the product (education), we'd be much more apt to make meaningful improvements, hire and pay teachers based on merit, and would likely become more globally competitive in our pre-collegiate education.
It is ironic to me that many of America's colleges and universities are arguably some of the best world-wide, yet, our highschools (and down) suffer as a system which is too large to be micromanaged (by politicians, no less).