Choosing to Learn

School voucher schemes remain controversial in many countries. But, as Sweden has shown, they can help give countries a competitive edge by broadening the range of schools and pedagogical approaches while maintaining equal access for all.

STOCKHOLM – The Nordic countries’ economies are performing well, and a part of the reason is that they are gradually reforming their “social model,” adapting it to new realities in ways that respond to people’s demands. But there is nothing uniquely “Nordic” about this change. On the contrary, it is one that others can emulate.

Obviously, such a policy requires significant investment in research and development. Sweden, for example, invests more than any other European country in this area – well above the EU target of 3% of GDP. Many countries invest less, and even Sweden’s 4% of GDP might not be enough, given higher spending on R&D in China, India, and the United States.

Moreover, large investments in R&D may be of limited use if knowledge can’t be transformed into successful businesses. That requires adopting policies that cover everything from kindergarten training to collaboration between universities and companies, as well as an overall business climate in which success is rewarded and failure is not treated as a human catastrophe. America’s success is to a great extent based on this kind of thinking.

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