Photo: Maja Suslin / TT
Education minister Gustav Fridolin, of the Green party. Photo: Maja Suslin / TT

Government wants less party politics in school policy

Government seeks wide agreement from opposition on schools
2:09 min

The government is hoping to set up a long-term cooperation with the center-right opposition block over school policy, so its direction does not change every time there is a shift in the winds of Swedish politics, but voices from the opposition are cautious about how far they are willing to go.

The government wants a joint policy to be grounded on the findings of modern research, and not on ideology. They also want the policy to be anchored by school personnel, who should be able to take ownership of a school's development, write three ministers in newspaper Dagens Nyheter on Monday.

"What's best for schools must carry a heavier weight than the tactics of political parties," write the government ministers, Gustav Fridolin of the Greens, and Helene Hellmark Knutsson and Aida Hadzialic, of the Social Democrats, in a debate piece.

"Students and teachers deserve security and tranquility on the job. The documents that steer schools should not be painted over every time the government changes color," they write.

They highlight Finland as an example of a successful school system where there is wide agreement on the education policy, and where people who work in education are given a lot of responsibility.

Christer Nylander, first vice chair in the education committee in Parliament and a member of the Liberal party (part of the opposition Alliance), is open to cooperating on certain issues, but not to making a broad agreement. 

Nylander tells Swedish Radio News that he would really like to cooperate when it comes to raising teachers' salaries and on career paths for teachers. However, he thinks that a political opposition is important, and he does not want agreements just for the sake of it.

"It's good that there are long-term rules of the game, but those have to be good for schools. It's not good with broad agreements and long-term rules if it means bad things for schools," he says.

"We have had a period in the 80s and 90s when we were in agreement about a lot within school policy and those are the things we're suffering from now. Even turning the schools over to the municipalities happened with rather broad agreement, but was bad for schools," he says. 

Camilla Waltersson Grönvall, the school policy spokesperson for the conservative Moderate opposition, tells newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that her party would really like to enter into discussions, but that one condition is that municipalities must not get to veto new free schools (privately operated, for-profit schools that receive public funding), something the government has talked about. She says the two blocks share certain views, but not on everything. 

"We're going to be a powerful opposition and drive a number of issues, in which 10-year compulsory school is one of the most prioritized, because it guarantees early support for our youngest students," she says. 

Bo Jansson, the chair of a teachers' trade union, Lärarnas Riksförbund, tells news agency he welcomes the government's attempt to seek broad solutions.

"We want to have agreeements that are sustainable over time," says Jansson.

One thing the government does not want is for the Alliance opposition to drive through changes that would see students starting to get graded at the age of 10, that is, two years earlier than they do now. 

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