In 1993, Sweden introduced a system of school choice and vouchers, inspired by the ideas of American economists Milton and Rose Friedman. Even though the system was just as controversial then as any U.S. voucher proposal, the right to chose your school and bring the funding with you is today considered a natural right for families and is widely accepted by all political parties.
When we designed the Swedish voucher system, we followed the Friedmans’ advice to keep it universal and simple. The answer was a system where funding follows the student regardless of their parents’ income. Under our system, every family has the right to choose a school that’s right for their child. And every student brings with him the same amount of per pupil funding as the cost of the public school in his or her home district.
With 15 years of experience, we in Sweden can summarize the effects. Education’s private sector share of students has grown from 1 percent to 10 to 15 percent, depending on grades. In some areas the competition is fierce, with both public and independent schools closing as a result. The variety of independent schools is large in both ownership — from parental cooperatives to corporate chains — and in innovative pedagogy and practice ..
.. with real competition, independent schools are still generally performing better academically than public schools, even if the differences probably will decrease as their share increases and failing schools disappear. More important perhaps, is that all schools — public and private — perform better in areas where alternatives are plentiful.
.. “How is it that Sweden, with its egalitarian tradition, has one of the most radical systems for market-driven choice in the world?”
Maybe that is the answer. With our egalitarian tradition, we can’t accept that the right to choose the best school for your child should be reserved just for those who have the means to pay for it.