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New database ranks Sweden's high schools

David Landes · 23 Jan 2009, 13:53

Published: 23 Jan 2009 13:53 GMT+01:00

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The schools listing was created by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) and ranks a number of factors, including on-time graduation rates, average grades for graduates, and the number of students who meet requirements for continuing on to higher education.

The database includes an index based on how a given school's results compare to the national average.

“Comparing results with others can lead to both analysis and improvement,” said SALAR head Håkan Sörman in a statement.

The database is a part of SALAR's Öppna jämförelser (‘Open comparisons') project, which attempts to help taxpayers better assess the results of local government spending.

But the information may also be used by students to get more information about prospective schools and programmes, helping them decide to which schools they eventually apply.

Following nine years of compulsory education, students in Sweden have the option of continuing in 3-year upper secondary school programmes (gymnasium).

The programmes are designed for students aged 16- to 20-years-old, and include a choice from 17 different specialized subjects, ranging from journalism and business to arts and construction.

In general, students apply to high schools in their municipality, with admissions based on the marks a student earns in compulsory school.

Because certain programmes are so popular, the de facto admissions requirements can vary a great deal from one school or subject to another. Thus students often apply to several programmes, hoping their grades are high enough to gain admission to their first choice of high school.

Sweden's National Agency for Education (Skolverket) also has a special website which offers prospective students a wealth of information about the country's high schools.

Sörman admits, however, that the new database doesn't take into account several other factors which could affect the statistics such as the socio-economic background of the students or differences in the finances and approach between Sweden's different municipalities.

“If you have, like in Malmö and Södertälje, many students who come from a flood of refugees, that obviously affects the results,” he told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

But Nihad Bunar, an education policy researcher at Stockholm University, is concerned about the new database.

“When you assign normative values like better and worse, you can easily get a picture that lacks nuance. Even if the point of comparing is to help schools improve their operations, the effect can be the opposite, with increased stigmatizing as a result,” Bunar told SvD.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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