School Choice Is Benefiting Swedish Students

An economist from Columbia University blames Sweden’s decline in student achievement on educational choice even though there is much more to the story. Senior Fellow for The Heartland Institute Joy Pullmann explains in School Choice Weekly that:

Research suggests the real causes for [Sweden’s] academic achievement slide are government regulation and progressive teaching ideology. For one, the Swedish government requires universities to accept all high school grades at face value–in other words, they cannot do as universities do here, which is assign stronger weights to an A in calculus than an A in gym class, or give more weight to schools they know have tougher grading standards than others. This regulation is a core reason for grade inflation, says Cato’s Andrew Coulson. The government likewise requires high schools to accept all elementary school grades equally.

Research points to another central cause of Sweden’s academic decline: a national curriculum installed in 1994, which demanded progressive teaching methods such as student-led classrooms, more “collaborative” group work, and far less memorization and repeated practice with core skills. “Grades have been abolished below the sixth grade, and homework heavily reduced,” writes researcher Tino Sanandaji in National Review Online. When similar methods were installed in Quebec in the early 2000s, student achievement also quickly declined.

“The problem is that we’re not discussing a true market system, but a public-private hybrid,” Sanandaji says. “The private Swedish schools are not really allowed to innovate where it matters, with their pedagogic methods. The curriculum and rules in the classroom are determined by the state, which also trains teachers in the so called ‘modern’ pedagogic theories.”

There are many lessons in this story for both school choice and curriculum control in America. It shouldn’t take a slide in student achievement here to reverse course.

Via School Choice Weekly.