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Competitiveness / Education & Research



Challenges to the Swedish free school idea  as one of the biggest school providers collapses

Friday, 31 May 2013
The Swedish free school idea, which has been copied by the British government under the leadership of David Cameron and its Conservative party, is heading to a brick wall. JB Group, which is one of the nation's biggest provider of private schools known here as friskolar is shutting down some school jeopardising the future of students.

As more teachers will be heading to the unemployment benefits office and hundreds of students stranded, it raise questions of the effectiveness of the system for free school. This should also cast clouds over British, who have admired and are now vehemently opting for the Swedish model as a system to revolutions the Britain flagging academic achievements road map.

JB group has school which provide education for about 10,000 Swedish pupils, announced Thursday that it would sell 19 of its high schools and close down the remaining three. The decision came after the Danish private equity group Axcel, which bought the chain in 2008, decided it could no longer continue to cover the company's losses.

"I'm devastated that the company I've managed for a short time won't survive," said JB group's chief executive, Anders Hultin. "It's extremely regrettable that it will affect the students."

"Our schools have not been sufficiently chosen by students," says JB Education's CEO, Anders Hultin to Swedish television news.

JB-school in Jönköping was the first to get the information that it will be closed down in a few weeks. Earlier in the day reports from Jönköping talked of the JB Group school closure which will hit 10,500 students in some 30 high schools around the country. This was further confirmed by the group's press release which blamed the closure on recent declining student base.

JB Group writes that it has found solutions for 19 out of 23 secondary schools and all four remaining elementary schools will now be transferred to other principals. The schools will be transferred to the new principals this summer.

"Given the circumstances, I am relieved that we have found new and powerful owners of almost all schools. The solutions means that schooling for  90 percent of our students will be able to continue," says Anders Hultin, President of JB group.

Ibrahim Baylan, Social Democratic education policy spokesperson, said he is not surprised - and sees JB's school collapse as a result of "20 years of the Conservative's politics." It is unfortunate that even during the rule of the Social Democrats,  the parliament blocked all proposed reforms such as strengthening the requirement so that school creators will be able to hold it together," he says and questioned the complete picture.

Similar idea of free schools - where companies run schools for profit motives has been established in the UK and two Swedish school companies, Kunskapsskolan and Internationella Engelska Skolan, have already taken over the management of schools in the UK in anticipation of further education reforms which will allow them to make a profit. They are both owned by private equity companies and unlike Sweden, they might make it here, in the UK given that Sweden has more stringent management than the UK.

The Swedish Green Party in its just completed conference swore that it will work extremely hard to see that companies that operate in Sweden to provide welfare services should rule out profit motive. They said that 20 years of education in the hands of private sector has not generated that type results that Finland provide which is the best in the world and which it does not break the bank for.

The question political pundits in Sweden have been asking is whether the Social Democrats, which is in coalition (the Red Green Coalition) are in the same line of thought like the Green party. The leader of the Social Democrats, Stefan Löfven, the last time we heard from him, he did not say that his government will eradicate profit motive in the provision of welfare services in Sweden.
by Team

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