Sweden

Choice-based schooling system 

Objective

  • schools cannot charge additional tuition fees, including application fees;

  • schools cannot select students according to academic ability – they must be accepted on a first-come-first-served basis; and 

  • all schools are given resources relative to the needs of their pupils. 

Important features of the reform programme 

  • Parents are funded instead of schools. This increases choice and competition among schools, which is more effective at raising standards than bureaucratic control. 

  • Giving public funding to independent schools has created new opportunities without creating an immediate threat to teachers or other interest groups. 

  • Reforms leave space for local adaptation – change arises through empowerment of students and parents. The independent schools often have an alternate pedagogy, focused on a specific religion, sport, or special needs. 

 

Impact

Prevented independent schools from taking resources and the ‘best’ students from public schools and depleting the quality of those schools. It also prevented segregation between socio-economic groups. Independent schools are run by bodies other than municipalities (which run the public schools), and governed by different rules, giving them greater freedom to organise their operations, with no need to follow the national curriculla, syllabi, or time tables. However, their operations must comply with the spirit and content of comparable education provided by the municipality, and in line with the values and general objectives in the Education Act. 

Implementing the Swedish system in other countries 

Implementing the system in Sweden was made easier by the fact that, before the introduction of vouchers, the private school sector was almost non-existent. Countries with a pre-existing private school sector would need to consider whether private schools would be willing to provide places at the same cost as state schools, and give up their right to select pupils.

Other challenges include:

  • persuading the government to fund parents rather than schools. In most systems, public funds are distributed directly to schools, which automatically undermines a parent’s choice.

  • limiting top-up fees: Chile, which has had a voucher system for more than 25 years, allows top-up fees, but they are capped and progressively taxed.

Research by CoLab; Packaged by CoLab; Used for Punjab education reform

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