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A recipe for reducing inequality in Sweden's schools

Uppdaterat torsdag 20 april 2017 kl 13.17
Publicerat torsdag 20 april 2017 kl 09.56
Gustav Fridolin: The queuing system for free schools creates inequality
(4:15 min)
Sweden exam results have fallen dramatically in a worldwide comparison.
Sweden exam results have fallen dramatically in a worldwide comparison. Foto: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

The government-appointed National School Commission recommended solutions for less segregated classrooms with a mix of pupils from high and low socio-economic backgrounds and abilities at a press conference on Thursday.

The School Commission, comprising a mix of people from inside and outside the teaching profession, proposed major changes to the queuing system that allows parents to choose a school for their children and which the commission said creates and deepens inequality and segregation.

Education Minister Gustav Fridolin of the Green Party welcomed the report, which he called "the most comprehensive set of reforms for Swedish schools in decades". He told Radio Sweden that better-educated parents had benefited from the free school choice system at the expense of those less able to push their children up in the queue. 

"The Swedish queuing model for independently run, publicly funded schools (free schools), that is a system that creates more inequality, whereby parents of a small kid or newly born, would ask to be put into the queue for the school of their choice."  

However, he did not want to take an immediate stand on the proposal for a lottery system for spots at the most popular schools, allowing for a mix of pupils from different socio-economic backgrounds.

Johanna Jaara Åstrand, chair of the Teachers Union (Lärarförbundet), and a member of the school commission, shared the minister's views on school choice. 

"Today, we have a school choice that is only free for some. The queue system is not a good system. It is the well-informed parents who put their children in a queue already at the maternity unit who snap up those places," she told SVT News. 

She ruled out a rumoured proposal that would stop the siblings of a child at a school from automatic entrance to the same school. 

The OECD, which produces the PISA rankings, published an education policy review of school performance in Sweden in May 2015. It concluded that Sweden should implement an 'ambitious' programme of reform in its schools to improve both equity and quality.

Today in Stockholm, the National School Commission, which was tasked to follow-up on the OECD recommendations, outlined its proposals aimed at improving results, teaching, and segregation in Swedish schools.

Commission chair, Jan-Eric Gustafsson, said that teacher education has deteriorated. This is due, in part, to training which focuses more on theoretical verses pratical applications, and more resources are now needed to bring back practical elements in teacher education.

In addition, Gustafsson points out that it is important for teachers to receive continuous "on the job" training. He proposed a "professional programme" that should contain clear steps for the increase of competency for teachers.

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