In 1992 Sweden implemented a private-school reform. Students were given the opportunity, using vouchers, to choose between public and private schools. The number of private schools has continuously grown, and today more than 12 percent of Swedish compulsory school students attend private schools. All children can apply to these schools, and so-called cherry picking or cream skimming is forbidden.
Better test scores and longer education
The authors of the new report find that having a higher proportion of students in private schools improves students’ national test scores and their grades in 9th grade. If the share of students increases by 10 percentage points in a municipality, students’ knowledge increases by 3–4 percent in compulsory school. This effect persists when students attend upper secondary school. The proportion of students going on to higher education increases by two percentage points as a consequence of having more private schools, and the number of years of education attained at the age of 24 increases by nearly a month on average.
“It took 8–10 years after the implementation of the private school reform before we saw any positive effects. This is probably because it took some time for the private schools to become more than a marginal phenomenon in most municipalities,” says Mikael Lindahl.
Students in both public and private schools benefit
Students in both public and private schools profit; private school students are not favored.
“We don’t know whether it’s competition that makes schools improve, or whether new ideas are disseminated more widely. We have not found that different types of private schools generate different effects,” says Mikael Lindahl.
Furthermore, the cost of schooling does not rise when more students choose private schools.