Alex Massie

Swedes 1 Turnips 0 (Again).

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It's a question I've asked before, but it's worth revisiting: if school choice is a nefarious right-wing plot to keep poor people poor and uneducated why is it that Sweden - Sweden! - has a nationwide school voucher programme that is supported by all political parties? Now clearly this doesn't in and of itself demonstrate that open access school choice programmes are necessarily a magic bullet, but it might - or rather ought to - quieten some of the hysterical shrieking one hears from defenders of the status quo in both the USA and the UK. If school choice can be embraced by left-wing Swedes it's just about possible it won't cause the sky to fall tomorrow...

A new paper from the Adam Smith Institute (unsurprisingly!) suggests the UK could usefully copy Sweden's voucher system and points out that in Sweden:

After the government allowed parents to send their children to any school that they thought was best -- whether state, private or religious -- and the government made sure that funding followed the pupil, as long as the school did not charge any top­-up fees, Sweden experienced an unprecedented expansion in the independent school system. New, affordable educational possibilities opened up to children from disadvantaged families. Swedish state schools were faced with having to compete in a more vibrant environment, and their quality improved as a result. Thanks to its spectacular success, the open access scheme introduced there is now valued by most parents, and embraced by all major political parties.

As I say, oppose school choice all you like but please let's drop the pretence that it's a policy advocated by people who don't care about other people. The evidence doesn't support that. Or, if you must continue down that path explain to me why the Swedes (and the Dutch for that matter) are also so very beastly and tell me why, having experimented with this callous approach to leaving the poor behind school choice in Sweden there's no appetite for returning to the old system.


Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietyeducation