Crowded after-school programs raise concern

4:09 min

Around the country, before and after-school programs are getting filled with more and more kids, which is dramatically lowering teacher-student ratios. Just over twenty years ago, each teacher had on average 8 kids to look after. Last year, the number had more than doubled, with after-school teachers each being responsible for 21 kids. This is causing many to worry about the quality of supervision in these programs.

Högalidsskolan has more than 700 students here on the south island of Stockholm. It's lunchtime for some and recess for others. After-school is about to begin for the younger students.

One of the afterschool teachers, Hilkka Mikkonen, tells Radio Sweden that she is very happy with the teacher-student ratio at this school, which averages a little over 16 students per teacher, and in her group, it is even smaller: roughly 8 students per teacher.

Principal, Mattias Boström, explains that the way the system works in Stockholm, the school gets more money if it takes in more students.

But in other places around the country, the situation is dismal, and teachers are concerned that after-school is turning into a storage facility, rather than providing stimulation for the kids.

One mother in Gothenburg, Liselott Johansson, sends her kids to a school where the teacher-student ratio has dropped dramatically and worries that once cold weather comes, the kids will be packed in to the rooms like sardines. Others worry that the small number of teachers can threaten the safety of kids.

Marie Sedvall-Bergsten works for the Swedish National Agency for Education and has been working on the issue of improving the situation of crowded after-school as more and more parents are working and need to use the service. More than 80 percent of six to nine-year-olds are in before and after school programs, which she says, means that it is especially important to provide good quality in these programs.

But she says that the quality varies a lot throughout the country, and that the suburbs and smaller municipalities with the most children tend to have the worst quality. Sedvall-Bergsten says the issue needs to be raised to the top level of politicians.

For their part, the Moderates have said they do not want to put a cap on the class sizes, but that they do care about the quality and have added new criteria to require after school programs to help students develop and complement their learning. But critics say this is impossible if there are not enough teachers.