Working Paper Series
IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy
Education and equality of opportunity: what have we learned from educational reforms?
Abstract: Equality of opportunity has been one of the central ideas
governing education policy in the Nordic welfare state. This paper takes
its starting point in the shared history of educational reform in the
Nordic countries, and presents evidence that the comprehensive school
reforms that implied a shift from selective two-tier schooling systems to
unified compulsory schools were beneficial for equality of opportunity.
This evidence is compared to a choice and voucher reform that in the 1990's
introduced pedagogical as well as organizational variety in the education
system in Sweden. The Swedish choice reform is unique in an international
perspective, and has reshaped the education sector dramatically as a
growing number of pupils attend non-public independent schools. The current
education debate shows a widespread concern that the introduction of choice
has led to a backlash for equality of opportunity. Parental background
remains a strong determinant of pupil performance. However, recent research
finds no indication that family background has become more important over
time in explaining pupil outcomes. The Swedish education system
nevertheless faces a number of challenges if it is to level the playing
field and create equal opportunities for all pupils: schools are becoming
increasingly more segregated, much as a consequence of immigration, and
disadvantaged pupils are less likely to exercise school choice compared to
their more advantaged peers.
Keywords: educational reform; equality of opportunity; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: I20; I24; (follow links to similar papers)
33 pages, March 14, 2016
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- This paper is published as:
Holmlund, Helena, (2015), 'Education and equality of opportunity: what have we learned from educational reforms?', Nordic Economic Policy Review, No. 2, pages 133-170
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