PROFIT MAKING SCHOOLS IN SWEDEN IMPROVE PERFORMANCE AND ARE NOT SOCIALLY DIVISIVE

SCHOOLS AND THE  PROFIT MOTIVE

Profit motive vital to  Swedish reforms and  benefits all children regardless of background according to a new report

Without profit motive could free school reforms here fail?

Comment

A new report from the IEA- Schooling for Money: Swedish Education Reform and the  Role of the Profit Motive; Gabriel H. Sahlgren ;December 2010- finds that contrary to  recent claims that they cause social division and are of little benefit to the most disadvantaged pupils the evidence is that  Swedish  free schools  have the opposite  effect.  Data shows that For-profit schools benefit students from all socio-economic backgrounds. Indeed they produce the largest benefits for students from less privileged backgrounds. What is more, school competition in Sweden has increased levels of educational achievement and free schools  enjoy higher levels of parental satisfaction than government (municipal) schools. The schools also benefit teachers, helping to  improve their  working conditions.  With the Gove reforms suffering from a lack of funding there are  some lessons for us  perhaps  from Sweden. The profit motive provides strong incentives for entrepreneurs to enter the schools market  and to expand their businesses. In a warning to the Coalition Government, the report claims that banning for-profit schools risks dramatically reducing the  number of free schools that are created, thereby limiting the benefits of competition.  The report states  ‘.. implications for the Lib-Con coalition are discussed. Since the Swedish voucher reform has  been successful overall, it is argued that the coalition should move forward with its free schools  policy. However, the ban on for-profit schools must be revoked. Contrary to doomsday predictions,  the profit motive has not led to a search for quick returns at the expense of educational quality. Instead, it has been essential to the increase in competition per se. The implication is clear – without  the profit motive, the UK’s reforms may fail.’   IEA says ‘The case of Sweden shows that increasing the supply of new schools to create sufficient competition in the system to raise standards requires encouraging schools to start up with a profit motive, yet at present this is being excluded by the coalition. In Sweden during 2008/2009 13% of schools were for-profit, while only 6% were non-profit schools. If England encouraged for-profit schools we could see a similar take up which could mean around 3,200 new schools.’

Recent research from the IOE on Sweden’s ‘free school’ reforms suggests that the entry of new schools had a positive effect on pupils’ academic achievements, certainly initially.

It would be wrong to overstate the impact of free schools, and Shalgren doesn’t but it is also wrong to assert, as some  do,   that there is robust evidence that they are socially divisive

.http://www.iea.org.uk/files/upld-release225pdf?.pdf

 

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