New grading system has students on edge

4:12 min

A grading system put in place at the beginning of the school year in 2011 has some students deeply worried about their education. “If you’re really good at solving math problems and really bad at counting in your head, then you can’t get an A because you need to get an A in all the subjects,” says 14-year-old Jesper Vines, who goes to Åsö elementary in Stockholm.

This is the second year that Vines has gotten graded under the new six level grading system.

His classmate Alice Ewing is also worried. She says teachers have openly discussed being confused about what grades to give students. “Teachers don’t seem to know what they are doing,” she says. “When they’re always saying, 'Well I don’t know how to set these grades'”.

The old grading system had four grades. The new one has six.

The center-right government enacted the reforms, saying with more grades, students and their parents would better understand what they have learned. And they said the system would allow teachers to be more precise in their assessments. The hope was that the new grading scales would encourage students to work harder.

But the student council SVEA, an organization that works to help students in elementary schools and high schools, has criticized several of the new system’s elements.

One of their main concerns is that the grading criteria for both the marks 'B' and 'D' were left out. “Grades are mostly to sort people out and show them what they know and don’t know,” says Mimmi Garpebring, the president of SVEA. “If you have two grades that don’t really say anything about what you know, then that makes an uncertainty for students and makes it harder for students to set the right grade.”

Too tough?

And like 14 year old Jesper from Åsö elementary school, Garpebring also thinks the grading system is too tough and that it does not reflect what the students have learned. “It stresses people out because you have to be perfect every day,” she says.

She agrees that the old grading system needed to be reformed. She says that under the old grading system two people with entirely different levels of knowledge could get the same grade.  But she wants the government and authorities to do more to help implement the system and train teachers.

But Bertil Östberg, the undersecretary for the Minister of Education, Jan Björklund, says the government has helped teachers and schools. And he thinks the new system will ultimately help students.

“We think it’s better to have more grades, better to have a fair system and we think students like the system with more grades,” says Bertil Östberg. “It’s natural that there’s some uncertainty in the beginning, but after a while everyone will regard this new system as better than the old.”

Reporter: Gabriel Stein