Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sweden's Voucher System no Secret, just some important details are ignored by right wing advocates.

Sweden is often brought up as the model of school voucher success. But what is never brought up are the elements of a big government curriculum and standardized testing, two issues the right wing in American won’t tolerate.  Perhaps we should take a tip from what the former State Secretary of Schools in Sweden did to make their system work (note; the downsides and problems within their system were not included in this story):
BY ODD EIKEN – 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 choose your school and bring the funding with you is today considered a natural right for families and is widely accepted by all political parties.
But under our system, equal terms work both ways. If a school chooses to be part of the voucher system, it has to be all-inclusive, provide national standards and have its performance monitored. And it has no right to charge its students fees beyond the voucher.
The dialog in the U.S. has always steered clear of government “meddling,” that in some magical, intuitive way, parents know what schools are teaching and which ones are the best. In socialist Sweden, they call it a “national standard” that is “performance monitored.” Parents still know what’s best, but that’s because there is a national standard curriculum and standardized testing of ALL schools.  
With 15 years of experience … Education’s private sector share of students has grown from 1 percent to 10 to 15 percent, depending on grades … from parental cooperatives to corporate chains.
Vouchers are not the sole fix for education – there is no such single reform. But 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.
Mr. Odd Eiken is Executive Vice President of Kunskapsskolan Education, the largest private school provider in Sweden. He was State Secretary of Schools in Sweden 1991-94 and helped develop the nation’s voucher reform.
Notice the man who put in place the voucher system in Sweden coincidentally is VP of the largest private school provider. Funny how that happened. 

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