The Swedish school, degraded by a market logic, has become a counter-model

To analyse. The Swedish school is doing badly. Before the legislative elections scheduled for Sunday, September 11, the political leaders may disagree on the solutions, they all make the same observation. Each year, 16,000 students leave college without being able to enter high school. The differences in level between the establishments are constantly growing. Everywhere, qualified teachers are missing.

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The Swedish school system, considered one of the most successful and egalitarian in the world just thirty years ago, is now watched with a mixture of revulsion and disbelief. In 2013, the PISA (Programme for International Learning Assessment) survey, published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), brought to light its dysfunctions: the level of young Swedes in reading, mathematics and science had collapsed. Since then, it has risen slightly, but educational inequalities have widened.

To understand this evolution, we have to go back to the end of the 1980s. The Swedish school was then still very centralized. Its organization and financing depend on the State. Institutions have little autonomy. Another peculiarity: they are almost all public. In 1992, only 1.1% of primary school and college students and 1.7% of high school students were enrolled in the private sector.

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Despite its good results, this system was then increasingly criticized for its lack of pedagogical diversity and the little freedom of choice it left to parents. While the country’s public finances were in the red, the Social Democrats in power decided to decentralize education: from 1989, primary and secondary education fell under the responsibility of the 290 municipalities, despite the opposition of the unions in ‘teachers.

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When the right came to power in 1991, it introduced a second reform, that of “friskolor” – the “free schools” – aiming to put an end to the quasi-monopoly of public education, with the introduction of an “education check ». Imagined by the American economist Milton Friedman, cantor of neoliberalism, it comes in the form of an envelope, financed by the municipalities and allocated to each student, regardless of the establishment where he is registered, in order to cover his costs. schooling. With this money, schools pay teachers, administrative staff and premises.

During the first years, the amount of the “education voucher” is 15% lower in the private sector. When they returned to power in 1994, the Social Democrats brought it to the same level as in the public in the name of equality: parents must be able to choose to enroll their children wherever they want, regardless of their income. It is up to the municipalities to set the amount of the check, which can vary from simple to double. Private schools can establish themselves wherever they wish, provided that the school inspectorate gives them the green light. They are also allowed to make profits.

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