The rise of private education in Sweden, the case of textbooks

What kid wouldn’t dream of that? At Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES), in the municipality of Upplands Väsby, a dormitory suburb of fifty thousand inhabitants north of Stockholm, six hundred students between the ages of 6 and 16 are divided into four houses, like in a saga. Harry Potter. Each is named after the Norse god Odin, Freya, Thor and Idun, in homage to the nearby Viking village. The school, a circular building covered with artificial grass, is located in the former administrative premises of the adjacent chocolate factory, where the Swedes’ favorite chocolate Marabou bars are made. Inside, the walls have been repainted in pastel colors and the offices have been converted into classrooms.

In the display case near the entrance, among the trophies won by the students, is a book by Barbara Bergström, Tough love (“Cow love”, untranslated, Ekerlid, 2018). In this manifesto dedicated to the honor of private education, the founder of the school, at the age of 77, tells how she managed to build an empire in thirty years, becoming the owner of forty-six institutions in Sweden. Primary and secondary schools, which have brought in more than 85 million euros since 1993.

Gray suits and small glasses, Anna Kuylenstierna apologizes: from society IES director Uplands Vesby took office in August and read only a few pages of Barbara Bergström’s essay. But she summarizes the message: “I think it’s a mix of structure and softness. »

In the hallway, students wait in single file before entering the classroom at the teacher’s signal. Here, children do not call their teachers by their first name, as in other places in Sweden, but by their last name preceded by “Ms” or “Mr”. Because a good part of the courses are in English. “It also attracts parents,” confirms the director, also mentioning the foundation’s excellent results: 97% of third-grade students last year had good enough grades to enter secondary school (compared to 85% on average in the country). But the installation of IES in Upplands Väsby, where 55% of school and college students currently study in the private sector, has not only made people happy.

Competitive spirit

To understand the controversy surrounding the Swedish school system, it should be remembered that in the early 1990s, almost 1% of children attended private school. Thirty years later, 16% of students from KP to III and 30% of high school students have received an education free school (“free school”). In France, private education under contract accounted for 17.6% of all schools in 2022, according to the Audit Chamber.

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Georgie Collins

"Falls down a lot. Writer. Passionate alcohol maven. Future teen idol. Hardcore music practitioner. Food fanatic. Devoted travel fan."