Swedish Lessons
How Schools with more Freedom Can Deliver Better Education

By Nick Cowen
December 2008
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.
ISBN: 9781903386675
94 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2"
$21.50 Paper Original

Improving the educational outcomes of children from low-income backgrounds is crucial to tackling Britain's lack of social mobility. However, after more than a decade of New Labour's initiatives, and with spending on education now at record levels in real terms, the gap between low-income children and middle-class children has actually widened.

Middle-class parents can exercise choice to a greater degree than low-income parents. Some opt out of the state system altogether and choose independent schools. Many more make sure they are living within the catchment areas of good state schools, and use their social skills to negotiate the increasingly complex admission procedures.

Other nations organise things differently. The Swedes have developed an approach to education that provides choice for all parents, regardless of income. Funding follows the child, and parents can choose which school their child attends. Independent providers, either charitable or commercial, can receive payment from the state on the same terms as state schools. The results have been impressive.

In areas where independent providers operate, standards are driven up in all schools. Children with special educational needs and children of immigrants have benefited noticeably. The policy, introduced in 1992, is well established and popular with parents.

In Swedish Lessons, Nick Cowen asks what we can learn from the experience of a country with strong egalitarian values that has successfully incorporated the mechanism of choice into its educational provision.


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