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Swedish pupils slide in new global ranking

Vivian Tse · 7 Dec 2010, 12:22

Published: 07 Dec 2010 12:22 GMT+01:00

Sweden came in 19th overall out of 65 OECD countries and partners, far behind OECD partner Shanghai, China and OECD leaders Korea and Finland, the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2009 survey revealed. Nordic neighbours Norway (12th) and Iceland (16th) also came ahead of Sweden, as well as the US in 17th.

Compared with PISA 2000, Sweden has lost 19 points and now has 497, compared with 556 for Shanghai, 539 for Korea and 536 for Finland. The OECD average is 493.

The study found that decline in reading skills among Swedish students was greatest for those who were already poor readers, the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) announced on Tuesday. It also found that Swedish students currently perform below the international average in science.

In addition, the Swedish school system has lost its top spot in equality and an increasing number of students do not possess basic reading skills.

"This is very worrying," Helén Ängmo, the agency's acting general director, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Nearly half a million 15-year-olds from 65 countries or regions took part in PISA 2009, of which 4,567 came from Sweden. PISA is an OECD study that evaluates skills in reading, mathematics and science.

The Swedish results were presented and analysed in an education agency report titled "Fit to face the future?"

Literacy is the main focus of the PISA study. Compared with the first PISA survey, the Swedish results have worsened, with the reading comprehension of 15-year-olds at an average level from an international perspective. In all of the previous PISA surveys, Swedish students performed above the OECD average.

At the same time, the Swedish students' performance in mathematics has also declined. Since the 2003 survey, Swedish students have lost 15 points and currently perform at an average level.

Meanwhile, for the first time, Swedish students have fallen below the OECD average in science. Sweden is now six points below the OECD average and the survey projects a downward trend in this area. The proportion of pupils failing to achieve a basic level in science has increased to nearly 20 percent.

Nearly one-fifth of Swedish students do not meet basic levels in reading comprehension. According to the OECD, this is the one skill that is viewed as essential for continued learning. The proportion has increased from 13 percent to almost 18 percent since 2000.

"One in five students now does not have a basic level in reading, a level needed to benefit from other knowledge," said Anita Wester, project manager at the agency for Sweden's participation in PISA.

Among boys, nearly one quarter fall below the basic level. Both boys and girls have fallen behind, but boys have lost even more ground and the poorest performers are mostly boys. Boys performed worse than girls in all subjects, with the difference in reading comprehension between boys and girls increasing from 37 to 46 points in the past decade.

Sweden has also lost ground in equality, which it once led in previous surveys despite being one of the world's most egalitarian countries, and currently ranks average.

"It is very worrying that the gaps are increasing. Equality is a hallmark of Swedish education and we have high ambitions for the school system's compensatory mandate and capacity to equalise social differences," said Ängmo.

Story continues below…

PISA revealed a growing disparity between high- and low-performing students and a strengthened role in the students' socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, the differences between high-and low-performing schools has increased.

PISA also acknowledged the difference in performance between Swedish students and students with foreign backgrounds. In Sweden, the differences between these groups of students was one of the highest in the survey.

For students with foreign backgrounds born in Sweden, 30 percent failed to meet basic reading levels. In terms of students of foreign origin who were born abroad, the figure was 48 percent, compared with Swedish students, at 14 percent.

"There is concern that students with foreign backgrounds born in Sweden have lower results than those students, although a lot of the differences can be explained by socio-economic backgrounds," said Wester.

Related links:

Vivian Tse (vivian.tse@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

13:37 December 7, 2010 by TheOriginalBlackMan
Now who can the dummies (racist) blame now?

One can't blame invandrare (immigrants) now can you?

Nevertheless, I came to this conclusion many years ago that Swedsih schools (H.S. and College) were below average at best after meeting many Swedes in the "States". Many Swedes that I had a business relationships with whether in Banking orsome other field spoke and wrote English as if it was taught to them by a Chinese person. However, I am now aware since learning some (and still learning) Swedish that many Swedes are illiterate in their own language! Oh How So Dreadful.
14:05 December 7, 2010 by Rishonim
I thought the Swedes were the best at everything. My wrong..
14:43 December 7, 2010 by isenhand
interesting, but following expectations.
14:49 December 7, 2010 by delfinita
Nah, if you compare schools in Spain from years ago till now, its the same or worse. OUr education in general is declining i would say....Sweden is to me nothing new...
15:33 December 7, 2010 by Prat
It's unclear how many of the tested 15-year olds came from outside Sweden, and more importantly for these measurements, at what age they arrived in Sweden.

If only in Sverige a few years, student scores reflect education by their former system overseas and not performance of Swedish schools.
15:45 December 7, 2010 by Borilla
Of course Frat is questioning how this failure could be laid at the feet of any persons other than invandrare. After all, it couldn't be that the politicizing and watering down of the curriculum caused these little snowflakes to fail. If you don't challenge students and demand the best of them, what do you expect? An F in mathmatics is okay as long as you get an A in self-esteem isn't it?
16:18 December 7, 2010 by TheOriginalBlackMan
@Prat and Borilla,

The two of you should excuse yourselves from the conversation since "Prat's" comment makes no salient points and "Borilla's" comment is a fine example of how not to write a paragraph. "Borilla" I dont know if you are being sarcastic or if you actually agree with Prat. Any sound written text that is convey a opinion should be clear and readable, your is not. Nevertheless, both comments are filled with discombobulated sentences and if it were a feature of this forum should be deleted for there stupidity.

Nevertheless, I thought Sweden was a country that was basically homogenous? I thought the country 99 percent "ethnic" swede? Come on racist make better excuses. One has to wonder if the national test scores were being doctered in past. Since laziness seems endemic throught out Sweden.

Great example: No one will shovel the sidewalks of Stockholm for the entire winter. If that is not laziness I don't know what is.
16:25 December 7, 2010 by spidernik84
Block facebook, youtube, twitter, take their mobile phones away, don't put a tv or a pc in their bedrooms in the time they have to study and you'll have the statistics grow again towards better results.

And, most importantly: make pupils get the real meaning of study, of learning. Make them ENJOY the learning process, instead of boring them.

Leisure > study. You must reverse this reality, and the rest will come.

You can apply this rule to every country in the world. You will succeed.
16:29 December 7, 2010 by calebian22
"For students with foreign backgrounds born in Sweden, 30 percent failed to meet basic reading levels. In terms of students of foreign origin who were born abroad, the figure was 48 percent, compared with Swedish students, at 14 percent."

For those who actually read the article, Prat made a valid point. The original BM obviously missed part of the article.
16:36 December 7, 2010 by Tennin
I remember last year my SAS-B teacher praising us for being so gung ho about learning the language and coming so far in less than 4 years. Apparently he's seen normal Svenska B students who he thought never should have made it past elementary school level Swedish.

An example he gave us of what one student did years ago was write sjuk sköterska instead of sjuksköterska, and e instead of är.
17:57 December 7, 2010 by TheOriginalBlackMan
Understanding percentages for beginners:

10 Black males out 20 are engineers.

20 Black males out of 3980 Green people.

50% of all Black males are engineers.

10% of all Green people are engineers.

Which group has the most engineers?

Disclaimer:

The "Green" people in this tutorial were not intended in anyway to represent envious people.
17:58 December 7, 2010 by Icarusty
With those 3 girls in the picture, I can understand why standards are slipping.
18:10 December 7, 2010 by TheOriginalBlackMan
The foreign-born population in 2008 consisted mainly of Europeans, particularly those from other Scandinavian countries: 56.9% of the foreign-born were European, with 21.0% being Scandinavian. Asia accounted for 28.2%, Africa 7.1%, South America 4.8%, and North America 2.2%. The largest single country population represented was Finland at 13.7% of the foreign-born (1.9% of the total population); other countries with 5% or more of the foreign-born population were Iraq (8.5%), Yugoslavia (5.6%), and Poland (5.0%).

Tables on the population in Sweden 2008. Corrected version 2010-02-18

Seems like the majority of the dummies are Swedish. Ojojo!!
18:12 December 7, 2010 by Icarusty
"They were illiterate in their countries they are illiterate here, they are so inbred most of them are basically retarded anyway."

This, coming from someone calling themselves "MemphisSwede". Oh, the irony.
18:16 December 7, 2010 by duogrn
For a more in depth elaboration, see the article in NYTimes http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/education/07education.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1291741222-Daa+FRHPWLrUr9Cyo0eDpA

Science: Shanghai 575, US 502, Sweden 495

Reading: Shanghai 556, US 500, Sweden 497

Math: Shanghai 600, Sweden 494, US 487

I suspect, Iran & Israel would score pretty high too if they were given the test.

Also, it'd be interesting to have India in the picture.
18:25 December 7, 2010 by TheOriginalBlackMan
Break down of "Race" in Sweden

Ethnicity number %

Swede 7,651,507 85.0

Finns 449,188 4.99

Assyrians 79,215 0.88

Norwegian 0.5

Danes 0.5

Croats 0.5

Albanians 0.5

Serbs 0.5

Bosnian 0.5

Lebanese 0.5

Turks 0.5

Iraqis 0.5

Iranians 0.5

Roma 36,007 0.4

Lappish 6,800 0.1

Estonians 0.1

Chilean 0.1

Greeks 0.1

Somalis 0,1

Others 270,053 3.0

Undeclared 0,0

Total 9,001,774 [14] 100.0

*Note: The 2010 estimate from Statistiska Centralbyrån suggested that Swedens population had risen by roughly 300,000 to 9,347,899. This estimate represents an increase by 91,552 since 2009 years estimate, a record increase since 1946. [15][16][17] By the year 2020 the population is expected to rise to over 10 million people
18:39 December 7, 2010 by calebian22
Original BM,

"In terms of students of foreign origin who were born abroad, the figure was 48 percent"

So almost half of all students of foreign origin failed to attain basic reading skills. It doesn't matter if they only make up .5 %, .7% or 50% of the Swedish population. Now does that huge percentage in such a small demographic influence the overal results attained by Sweden in significant way? No. However, it does acknowledge a big problem within that demographic, which was the point of it being mentioned.
23:25 December 7, 2010 by Argentina84
@spidernik84: I totally agree with you!

@duogrn: Thank you for the NYT link.
23:51 December 7, 2010 by Gretchen
I think it is the school system which incourages school to let students pass and a system that encourages school to compete for students with such ridicuous programmes as sport and soccer schools. A Swedish friend of mine who is a teacher also told me they are encouraged to let students pass in his school.

Also when comparing to a German school system, there are less hours of teaching in a week, less homework, less demand on students and no "play year" for the 6-year olds, but real school with shorter hours of course.

I am not surprised.
01:11 December 8, 2010 by Civical
Funny but the same fuss over a slide in school rankings has been taking place in the U.K. Thankfully no one seems to be trying to pass it off as a racial matter. What is happening is a debate over how schools are owned and governed, the education minister, Michael Gove(a Conservative), is full of praise for Finlands success but is introducing a policy of encouraging 'Free Schools' similar to the conservative (centre right) policy in Sweden. What do you reckon?
04:27 December 8, 2010 by ghostwriter
"The two of you should excuse yourselves from the conversation since "Prat's" comment makes no salient points and "Borilla's" comment is a fine example of how not to write a paragraph. "Borilla" I dont know if you are being sarcastic or if you actually agree with Prat. Any sound written text that is convey (that conveys) a(an) opinion should be clear and readable, your (yours) is not. Nevertheless, both comments are filled with discombobulated sentences and if it were(was) a feature of this forum (they) should be deleted for there stupidity.

Nevertheless, I thought Sweden was a country that was basically homogenous? I thought the country (had) 99 percent "ethnic" swede? Come on racist (racists) make better excuses. One has to wonder if the national test scores were being doctered in past. Since laziness seems endemic throught out Sweden (fragment. Revise)

Great example: No one will shovel the sidewalks of Stockholm for the entire winter. If that is not laziness I don't know what (it) is."

Have a look at your own grammar mistakes instead of pointing at other people.
04:52 December 8, 2010 by ilockitdown
Yes ghostwriter, thats exactly what i was going to say, if your going to be the comment grammer police atleast do it properly or just gtfo, and how do you not understand borilla's tone of voice?! just fail all over this post
08:05 December 8, 2010 by duogrn
Apparently, this is currently the most emailed news item on NYTimes.com right now.

In regard to my own post #16,

1) The reason why India was probably left out from the test is most likely due to the fact that despite growing investment in education, 35% of its population is still illiterate; only 15% of Indian students reach high school, and just 7% graduate.

2) Iran ranked 87% among 139 nations in and was not included in the test

3) Israel scored 474 in reading, below the OECD average

Evidently my own personal acquaintances don't construct a legit sample set.

In terms of integration, two points come into mind,

1) How the top-scored Shanghai handles and integrates migrants' children into its city's education system is worth learning.

Note. Shanghai, the largest city in China, has a population of 20.7 million, of whom 13.8 million are permanent residents, and 5.4 million are temporary, in addition, there are around 1.5 million who are mobile (i.e. without a Shanghai home).

OECD has conducted a study in their note of Shanghai and Hong Kong

http://www.oecd.org/document/61/0,3343,en_2649_35845621_46567613_1_1_1_1,00.html

2) In Spain, Gypsies find easier path to integration

"Some experts say Spain's secret is that it has concentrated on practical issues, such as access to housing and jobs. In contrast, they say, some European institutions have concentrated too much on issues of prejudice and political rights.'

see the article on NYTimes

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/06/world/europe/06gypsy.html
21:47 December 12, 2010 by ngecenk
meh, i wouldnt put bet on it. my country has always become one of the big three(if not number 1) in physics, math, and chemist contest. but then none of these result able to perform in real life application.

swedish education is just doing fine, its the standard of the question that goes up so high that it reach an unnecessary level.

just teach your kids what they want to learn, and try to get away from the capitalist bullshit that force you to perform better and better to an unnecessary level. technology should help human life, not give them a new headache.
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