Coming into the 2002 elections, the main opposition party championed the freedom of independent schools and their proliferation. “Who knows best; Göran Persson or the children and their parents?” asked the then party leader, Bo Lundgren.
But now, current party leader, Fredrik Reinfeldt, is singing a different tune.
“The 90s’ significant modifications to the Swedish school system saw the rise of private schools and an introduction of choice,” he said.
“But now I see before me the great task of liberalizing the public schools and more clearly focusing on quality and knowledge.”
According to Reinfeldt his own party made an error of judgement in concentrating on private schools.
“What is important for parents is a well-managed classroom and that the students learn more. Whether it’s a public or private school is irrelevant.”
The Ministry of Education’s statistics show that the existence of private schools in Sweden has rapidly increased since the beginning of the 90s. Six per cent of primary and ten percent of secondary school students attend a private school.
Fredrik Reinfeldt recently visited some 20 schools around the country, none of which were private, according to Svenska Dagbladet.
After having visited a number of headmasters, teachers and parents, SvD reported Reinfeldt’s conclusion: public schools must have greater freedom to decide the format of teaching.
“[Public schools] are currently impeded by considerable bureaucracy and regulations on municipal and Sweden-wide levels,” Reinfeldt told Aftonbladet.
The Moderates have proposed changes, including “getting rid of the existing public school political agenda”, scrapping the rigid school timetable and implementing standardised testing, which they say would be introduced within 100 days of the establishment of a conservative government.
The minister of Education, Ibrahim Baylan, was quick to criticise the Moderates’ education stance.
Baylan believes that Fredrik Reinfeldt and his party have no credibility when they maintain they want to spend more on the publicly-run schools.
“The Conservatives dress in sheep’s clothing. They say one thing and do another. Every time I have suggested increased support for schools they have voted no.”