Independent Schools

Prior to the 1990s, there were only a handful of private schools in Sweden, mostly tuition-funded boarding schools, whereof Sigtunaskolan and Lundsbergs skola are the most well known. A major education reform in 1992 allowed privately run schools offering primary or secondary education to receive public funding for each student, at a level similar to what public schools receive. These are called "independent schools" (friskolor), and in 2008 there were around 900 of them.

The "independent schools", similar to charter schools in the United States or academies in the United Kingdom, are funded with public money (skolpeng) from the local municipality, based on the number of pupils they have enrolled, in the same way Swedish public schools are. Consequently, they are not allowed to discriminate or require admission examinations, nor are they allowed to charge the students any additional fees. They are, however, allowed to accept private donations. Regional economic differences directly affect how much money each municipality can provide per pupil, by as much as SEK 50,000 (around US$7,700 or £4,700).

Anyone can start an independent for-profit school, or a chain of such schools, in Sweden. Many of them offer an alternate pedagogy (such as Montessori), or a foreign/international, religious or special needs (such as hearing-impaired) profile. There are also several secondary schools with an elite sports profile. Internationella Engelska Skolan and Kunskapsskolan are the two largest "independent school" chains. In 2008, more than 10% of Swedish pupils were enrolled in "independent schools".

The "independent school" system has divided public opinion in Sweden. During the 2010 election neither political block suggested abandoning the program. A poll conducted in 2011 by Synovate found that Swedes who want to ban companies from operating schools for profit outnumbered those that don't. The Swedish model has been put forward as a possible model for similar solutions in both the United Kingdom and the United States, where Per Unckel, County Governor of Stockholm and former Conservative Minister of Education, in 2009 summarised the advantages of the Swedish system in an opinion piece produced by the Libertarian think tank Pacific Research Institute: "Education is so important that you can't just leave it to one producer. Because we know from monopoly systems that they do not fulfill all wishes".

In February 2013, The Guardian published an article on independent school system in Sweden - "Sweden proves that private profit improves services and influences policy - Even education unions came on board when private provision was introduced into Swedish schools", citing the paper on average educational performance made by research institute under the Swedish Ministry of Employment, IFAU, which found "that an increase in the share of independent-school students improves average performance at the end of compulsory school as well as long-run educational outcomes". However, in June 2015, another article by a different correspondent from The Guardian suggested that the system was "a political failure", and that standards in learning had dropped dramatically over the years, and was in a state of "crisis".