School Inc. – A Personal Journey with Andrew Coulson

Episode Three Description

Air date: 04/04/2017

School Inc. – A Personal Journey with Andrew Coulson

Episode Three: Forces and Choices

 

Short Episode Description

Ten years after Chile reformed its education system, Sweden followed suit. It is the first stop in Forces and Choices, episode three of School Inc. All private schools in Sweden are now fully tax supported and parents can choose between these so-called “free” schools and the local public schools.

The global journey continues, visiting highly successful private schools in Sweden, London, and India, where the resistance to education as a business has lessened. The late Andrew Coulson, senior fellow of education policy at Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, is joined by the administrators of these schools to examine the secrets of their success, learning that some of India’s highly successful private schools serve eager poor students and parents at little more than a dollar a week. School Inc. comes full circle to conclude in the English countryside where the Industrial Revolution began.

Then as now, Coulson suggests, education was perhaps the only field in which successful entrepreneurship was not celebrated. He concludes: “What if we allowed all education entrepreneurs to put their own money on the line in an effort to better serve us, gaining or losing just as entrepreneurs do in other fields. And what if we made sure that everyone had access to that wide-open market place.  Would we then see excellence scale-up in education?”

 

Long Episode Description

Ten years after Chile reformed its education system, Sweden followed suit and it is the first stop in Forces and Choices, episode three of School Inc. All private schools in Sweden are now fully tax supported and parents can choose between these “free” schools and the local public schools.

The late Andrew Coulson, senior fellow of education policy at Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, visits two highly successful, but very different private schools.  At the International English School, he meets Barbara Bergstrom, who extols the school’s strict rules on student behavior and a teacher who explains the high degree of student-teacher interaction.  At Kunskapsskolan, Administrator Peje Emilsson describes his school’s extraordinary expansion in Sweden and in London.  According to him, Kunskapsskolan has about 40 schools and about 10,000 students in Sweden. They expanded to London and they are now running five schools.

Coulson points out there is a reason for Sweden’s success in education and that, unfortunately, is the profit motive. Emilsson says that “all entrepreneurs who succeed are being driven by the goal to change something.  Profit is a receipt to show that you’ve done it in a successful way, but the primary goal is not to make a lot of money.”

In Stockholm’s historic Vasa museum, Coulson shows how a disaster at sea was caused by the King of Sweden who made uninformed design decisions that sunk his ship.  The comparison to educational administrators is not lost on Andrew Coulson.

Thousands of miles away from Sweden is India, home to more children than any nation on Earth and where, therefore, education is priority.  Coulson is joined by the administrators of some of India’s highly successful private schools who serve eager poor students and parents at little more than a dollar a week.  Dramatic abuses in the government school system are held in stark contrast to the accomplishments of these private schools according to internationally acclaimed educator James Tooley, who has spent years in India studying both the private and public (or government) schools.

School Inc. comes full circle to conclude in the English countryside where the Industrial Revolution began.  Then as now, Coulson suggests, education was perhaps the only field in which successful entrepreneurship was not celebrated.  Where it has begun to thrive in modern times it is only in exceptional places where the resistance to education as a business has lessened, in Sweden and Chile and in India and selected school environments in the U.S.  He concludes: “What if we allowed all education entrepreneurs to put their own money on the line in an effort to better serve us, gaining or losing just as entrepreneurs do in other fields. And what if we made sure that everyone had access to that wide-open market place.  Would we then see excellence?”