While American elected officials continue to encourage market reforms like competition, charter schools, and vouchers, Swedish officials are now recognizing the damage these reforms have done to their society. Sweden abandoned its public system in the early 1990s and welcomed vouchers and privately managed schools.



“STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – When one of the biggest private education firms in Sweden went bankrupt earlier this year, it left 11,000 students in the lurch and made Stockholm rethink its pioneering market reform of the state schools system.


“School shutdowns and deteriorating results have taken the shine off an education model admired and emulated around the world, in Britain in particular.


“I think we have had too much blind faith in that more private schools would guarantee greater educational quality,” said Tomas Tobé, head of the parliament’s education committee and spokesman on education for the ruling Moderate party.


“In a country with the fastest growing economic inequality of any OECD nation, basic aspects of the deregulated school market are now being re-considered, raising questions over private sector involvement in other areas like health.


“Two-decades into its free-market experiment, about a quarter of once staunchly Socialist Sweden’s secondary school students now attend publically-funded but privately run schools, almost twice the global average.


“Nearly half of those study at schools fully or partly owned by private equity firms….



“A lax regulatory environment is also to blame.


“Sweden replaced one of the world’s most tightly regulated school systems with one of the most deregulated, leading to scandals like the 2011 case of the convicted pedophile who set up several schools quite legally.


“I’ve often said it’s been easier to start an independent school than set up a hot-dog stand,” said Eva-Lis Siren, head of Lararforbundet, Sweden’s biggest teachers union.


“In the push toward freedom of choice, one lost sight of quality control.”




“The private schools brought in many practices once found exclusively in the corporate world, such as performance-based bonuses for staff and advertising in Stockholm’s subway system, while competition has put teachers under pressure to award higher grades and market their schools.


“The idea that private equity firms and large corporations would run hundreds of schools was a far cry from the individual, locally-run schools envisaged at the start.”