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Swedish school reform was a failure: report

Published måndag 10 februari 2014 kl 09.02
"He blames every politician of those times"
(4:49 min)
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

A 1991 reform which involved transferring jurisdiction over schools from the state to municipalities was a big failure, according to a government-commissioned enquiry to be presented Monday.

The author of the report, political science professor Leif Lewin, claimed that the reform was bound to fail from the outset since many teachers opposed it.

Writing in newspaper Dagens Nyheter on Monday, Lewin said that when the reform was introduced, the Swedish National Agency for Education failed to give municipalities the support they needed. Too much of teachers' time has since been spent on administration, which has in turn led to too little time being devoted to classroom teaching, Lewin explained.

Since the early 1990s Swedish teachers' status has worsened and pay rises have been inadequate, Lewin found. He also explained that the management control measures which the state was supposed to retain, according to then Social Democrat Minister of Schools Göran Persson, were later removed by the centre-right coalition government which came to power in 2006, a further failure, according to Lewin.

However, Lewin noted that responsibility for these failures lies with parties across the political spectrum, and with the state as well as with municipalities.

The Liberal Party, the Left Party and the Sweden Democrats all want responsibility for schools to be transferred from municipalities to the state. This is a hot political issue ahead of the general election, not least after Sweden's poor performance in the latest international Pisa survey.

In fact, a survey published by Dagens Nyheter Monday showed that four out of 10 voters in Sweden see education as the most important issue in the coming election.

The teachers' unions are not in agreement on whether or not responsibility for schools should be transferred back from municipalities to the state. The Swedish Teachers' Union wants municipalities to retain responsibility for schools, while the National Union of Teachers in Sweden wants the state to take over.

Lewin was not tasked with proposing any solutions, but said he believes it is imperative that teachers' conditions improve.

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