pisa report 2012 - Sweden worst in class

Sweden slides down international education table

5:00 min

Sweden's 9th graders are languishing in the bottom half of the Pisa league table on global education standards in mathematics, reading comprehension and science. The results measuring the performance of 15 year olds in 2012 from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, showed that performance levels in all three subject areas had fallen further than any other country since the last Pisa report of 2009.

Pisa is an international study, undertaken every third year, of knowledge in math, science and reading for 15-year-olds among OECD countries. In 2003, Swedish pupils' knowledge in maths was above average, in 2009 it had sunk to the middle level and for 2012 it had dropped below average.

The largest fall in performance for Sweden's 15-year-olds compared to 2009 was in mathematics, but skills in reading comprehension and science also deteriorated. Sweden is now below the OECD average in all three subjects.

Sweden had 478 points in math, which is below the OECD mean of 494 points and was a drop from 500 points in 2009. As many as 27 per cent, more than a quarter of Swedish 15 -year-olds, did not pass the basic level in math. In 2003 it was over 17 percent.

Swedish pupils' reading comprehension has deteriorated since 2000. The proportion of strong performing pupils has decreased while the amount of poor performing students has increased.  

The results were presented Tuesday by Sweden's National Agency for Education (Skolverket) whose director-general Anna Ekström said:"We are astonished by the depth and breadth of the downturn. There is a sharp deterioration and it is serious."

However, Liberal Party leader and Education Minister Jan Björklund blamed the opposition Social Democrats. he said: "The measurement was made in grade nine almost two years ago, in March 2012. Pupils had gone through all nine years of compulsory schooling with the old curricula and old scores ... PISA 2012 is thus not an evaluation of the new school policy, but the nail in the coffin for the old."

At a press conference after lunch, the Education Minister revised his earlier stance, stating that the responsibility for the declining standards was shared, refering to the reforms of the 90s when school policy was passed from the state to local municipal level, which he said had been "a failure". 

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, the Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven said the results were a "national crisis".

Asian nations such as South Korea, Singapore and Japan topped the performance charts along with China's Shanghai region. The OECD's Eric Charbonnier said of their performance to Reuters;"Their education sytems ask a lot of their students. There is a culture of education:parents,children,teachers -everyone is working in the same direction."