Free education refers to education that is funded through taxation, or charitable organizations rather than tuition fees. Although primary school and other comprehensive or compulsory education is free in many countries, for example, all education is mostly free (often not including books (from primary) and a number of administrative and sundry fees in university) including post-graduate studies in the Nordic countries. From 2013 in Northern Europe Estonia started providing free higher education as well. In Argentina, Norway and Finland, no fees apply for foreign students enrolling at a university, although they may not be eligible for a monthly study allowance and loan. Bachelor degree programmes in Norway are solely taught in Norwegian. Master degree programmes in Norway are offered in either Norwegian or English depending on the programme and/or university. Sweden, until recently, provided free education to foreign students but changes have been introduced to charge fees to foreign students from outside of the European community. Denmark also has universal free education, and provides a monthly stipend, the "Statens Uddannelsesstøtte" or "SU", to students over 18 years of age or students who are under 18 and attending a higher education. Bachelor and master degree programmes in Denmark are offered in either Danish or English depending on the programme and/or university. Greece and Argentina provide free education at all levels, including college and university.
In Brazil, free education is offered by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry offers scholarships for graduate degrees, masters, doctoral and post-doctoral for Brazilians and immigrants who have Brazilian citizenship. The best universities and research centers are public institutions, financed by either the local state (state universities) or the federal government (federal universities). Graduate students can get paid if they qualify for the incentive but competition is extremely fierce. There has been a proliferation in the last 10 years of private universities which are interested in providing professional training to their undergraduates. These private colleges are not interested in nurturing research centers, since it is not part of their business model to get involved with research.
In Sri Lanka, free education is provided by the government at different levels. Government funded schools such as national schools, provincial schools and piriven provided primary and secondary education free, while assisted schools and semi-governmental schools provided the same at subsidized rates. At the university level, the state universities provide undergraduate courses free, however this totals only about 10% for those qualified for university entrance. Grants and scholarships are provided for a limited number as study allowances.
Elsewhere, free education usually comes to students in the form of scholarships and grants, if they cover all or most of students' expenses. Individuals, institutions and advocacy initiatives are examples of providers of grants and scholarships. They may have economic (e.g. tax-deductibility), humanitarian, charitable or religious motivations.
There are examples of steps towards free education being taken across the world primarily in those nations developing rapidly, such as China. The renowned centers of learning in Libya and Cuba may be attended free of charge.
In Mauritius, the government provides free education to its citizens from pre-primary to tertiary levels. Since July 2005, the government also introduced free transport for all students.
Free education has long been identified with "sponsored education". This may now evoke images of advertising campaigns, but in the past, especially during the Renaissance, it was common practice among rich dignitaries to sponsor the education of a young man as his patron.
In the United States, the government's compulsory education was introduced as free or universal education during the late 19th century, and extended across the country by the 1920s.
Compulsory education is typically funded through taxes. Aggravated truancy can be prosecuted. Homeschooling, private or parochial schooling is usually a legal alternative.
As of the start of many free internet-based learning institutions such as edX and mitX, education is now free to anyone in the world with internet access. In many countries, the policy for the merit system has not yet caught up with these recent advances in education technology.
List of countries with free post-secondary education
This is not a complete list, and only countries discussed in the article are mentioned.
- Saudi Arabia
- Spain, as yet.
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
Free education on the Internet
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Online education has become an option in recent years, particularly with the development of free massive open online courses from providers such as Khan Academy (High School) and Higher Education, through providers such as Udacity, World Education University - WEU and Coursera. Free education has become available through several websites with some resembling the courses of study of accredited universities. Online education faces barriers such as institutional adoption, license or copyright restrictions, incompatibility and educator awareness of available resources.
Due to the extensive requirements of resources for online education, many open community projects have been initiated. Specifically, the Wikimedia Foundation has developed a project devoted to free online educational resources, Wikiversity, and recently, several other sites for specific topics have developed. MyMCAT was designed as a free community project to aid students wishing to take the MCAT.
- Education Index
- Equality of opportunity
- Global Text
- Libre Knowledge
- Open education
- Open educational resources
- Open source curriculum
- Right to education
- Tuition freeze
- Tuition payments
- National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts
- The Swedish School System http://www.skolverket.se/sb/d/354
- BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China ends school fees for 150m