Free education (or subsidized education) is education that is provided at no cost to students. Although primary school and other comprehensive or compulsory education is free in many countries, the Nordic countries are all examples of countries where education is free all the way up, including post-graduate studies. In Sweden and Finland, there is not even a fee for foreign students enrolling at a university (exchange or not), although they may not be eligible for the monthly study allowance and loan most nationals are. Answers to some of the frequently asked questions about studying in Sweden . Denmark also has universal free education, but on top of that the students get paid to study, when above 18 years of age a danish student is entitled to a monthly payment called "Statens uddanelsesstøtte" or "SU" (Government Education Support) .
Several other European countries, such as England and Germany, have had a history of some forms of free education, as well as Australia. In the 1970s the Australian Labor Party led by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam introduced reforms which ensured free tertiary education. These reforms were removed later in the 1980s by the Bob Hawke Labor government. Students and radicals played an important part in forcing the Whitlam government to implement the free education system as well as opposing the introduction of tertiary fees in the 1980s.
In some developing countries like Sri Lanka education is given free from the primary level up to the tertiary level.
Nowadays, as for many parts of the world outside the Nordic countries, free education usually comes to students in the form of scholarship and grants, if they cover all or most of students' expenses while at school. Patrons for grants and scholarships may be individuals, institutions (often the school itself), advocacy initiatives, etc. They may have economic (e.g. tax-deductibility), humanitarian, charitable or religious reasons. Also in addition to the Nordic Countries Ireland has free education at all levels, including college and university which is also free. So does Libya and Cuba.
There are examples of steps towards free education being taken across the world primarily in those nations developing rapidly such as China.
In the United States, government compulsory education was introduced under the banner of free or universal education during the late 1800s and eventually extended its reach across the country by the 1920s. In many cities, compulsory education was met with great resistance. In some cases, government agents forced children to attend school at gun point.
Government compulsory education is typically funded through compulsory taxes. Failure to attend compulsory schooling or to pay compulsory taxes can result in imprisonment for guardians or parents of children who fail to attend, and in some cases can result in children being separated from their parents and assigned to foster parents by the government.
Free education, sponsored by private individuals through grants or scholarships differs markedly from government compulsory education especially in countries such as Cuba where no alternative forms of education are allowed, and where attempts to supplement or criticize government compulsory education is often met with harsh punishment.
Due to the extensive requirements of material 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. As an example, MyMCAT was designed as a free community project to aid students wishing to take the MCAT.