For-profit schools are the future

IEA research profiled in Public Service Europe

It has now become something of a cliché to marvel at how the social democratic paradise that is Sweden was able to reform its school system through a series of free market reforms. Yet the reforms, which are still ongoing and still being analysed by policymakers, nevertheless provide a rich seam of data and discussion points for other European Union member states - such as the United Kingdom - which are looking to radically improve their schooling.

To recap on exactly what happened, the Swedish school voucher programme was introduced in 1992 - by the then centre-right government. Since the 1970s, the Swedish school system had declined in quality. Only the rich, who could afford private schools which charged tuition fees on top of Sweden's already high taxes, had the ability to shop around for a good school for their children.

But then, as Thomas Idergard of Swedish think-tank Timbro explains: "The school voucher program was designed to create a market—with competition, entrepreneurship, and innovation — and yet based on the Swedish and Scandinavian tradition of social justice and equality: all families should be able to choose between public and private schools regardless of their economic status or wealth. This equal opportunity phi