The Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper revealed on Thursday that several upper secondary (gymnasium) teachers employed by the publicly-funded, privately-managed Mikael Elias education company have felt pressured to tamper with their pupils' evaluations. A language teacher even told SvD that a principal had talked about the students in terms of the money their attendance brought the school.
"Six pupils. You have to understand that that's 600,000 kronor ($90,000)," the principal reportedly told the teacher after parents complained.
The Mikael Elias company operates nine high schools across Sweden and belongs to the consortium Academedia, which denied awareness of structural grade inflation when contacted by SvD.
"We don't need that kind of judgment in our work because a lot of students apply to our schools," Academedia spokeswoman Carina Hall told the newspaper.
Neither the teachers who spoke out, nor concerned union ombudsmen, wanted their names used in conjunction with the article.
The news came shortly after the revelation that a principal at a different free school shied away from accepting certain students, which led the opposition to call for stricter controls on how the privately-run companies selected pupils to attend their schools.
Fears of grade inflation are not new. In July, news agency AFP looked back at more than two decades of free schools in Sweden, highlighting that "surveys have suggested some independent schools try to attract students by awarding them higher grades – with fears of grade inflation as a result".