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The Swedes Spread the Love Around in Education

Secularists love to hold up the Scandanavian countries as models of economic and social excellence, but if they’re members of a teachers’ trade union, they may want to think twice:

But this is Sweden, willingly taken as an example by policies introduced in 1992.  Its education reform was “to improve the quality of its system, and diversify school offerings while liberalizing parents’ the school choice” says the Swedish centrist party MP Mats Gerdau. Municipalities finance all the schools based on number of children enrolled. All schools, public or private, secular or religious, are free for students from 3-20 years with this system. This model runs from kindergarten through 20 year olds.

The independent schools are paid by municipalities the same as public schools.  They must meet the same objectives and the same legal framework as public education, but may have different profiles, whether cultural, ethnic, educational or religious.  The results are very conclusive. The evaluations show that competition between schools has helped to improve the quality even in public schools, at least in areas where there are private schools.

There are two main obstacles to this in the US.

The first are the aforementioned teachers’ trade unions, who would sooner abolish compulsory education than to see this kind of competition (think opposition to vouchers, and the Swedes are using what amounts to a voucher system.)

The second is the secularists’ dread of funding any kind of religious schools.  But that cuts both ways: religious schools don’t want the secularising controls that would inevitably come with state or federal funding.  That in turn suggests another kind of competition: one between those educated in a secularistic way and those educated in a religious way.  Cut schools loose and let’s see who ends up on top.

In a country where freedom has been the hallmark, there are just too many people scared that change will leave them behind…


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