Worries that school system spells segregation

"Swedish situation most extreme"
2:04 min

Sweden is unique in the world, because it publicly finances private schools but also allows the companies who run them to make a profit.

Henry Levin is a professor at the Teacher's College at Columbia University in the United States. He says increased segregation is becoming apparent in Sweden, which he says he is concerned about.

This segregation is worrying over time, says Levin, because it is a slow process that begins to break apart the society.

Levin has been studying the Swedish school system from an international perspective since the beginning of the '90s. He says Sweden has gone further than any other country when it comes to opening up the school market and making it competitive.

Levin also says it is striking that Swedish schools, both private and public, are run with relatively little regulation and supervision, compared to countries like the United States or Holland, a country which has long had private schools.

In a joint study between the University of Stockholm and Uppsala University, which is about to be published in the journal “Urban Geography”, 5,000 families answered a survey about the motives behind how they chose which school to send their children. Researchers say that what has been happening is that the relatively secure middle class families often avoid sending their kids to schools that have a mixed social or ethnic makeup. This, they say, is exactly what leads to segregation.

Patrik Scheinin, a professor in pedagogy at Helsingborg University, says the reason why Finnish schools have been so successful is partly because the schools are pretty much all the same. He says that is not the case in Sweden.

"The thing I would be worried about when you have such big differences between schools is that parents are scared to put their kids in the wrong school,” he says. “And then it's easy to have a ghetto effect, where everyone who can get out of an area or school does so, and that doesn't help the school that's left behind."

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