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Swedish children need to study more: minister

Swedish children need to study more: minister

Published: 27 Nov 2012 15:41 GMT+01:00
Updated: 27 Nov 2012 15:41 GMT+01:00

Sweden failed to make an appearance in a list of the top 20 countries worldwide ranked by education quality, a review which coincided with the Finance Minister claiming that Swedish kids need to study more.

The ranking was compiled by comparative education research institute Pearson for The Economist Intelligence unit.

It discusses at length society's attitude towards education, saying the top two on the list – Finland followed by South Korea – value education highly.

"Glorifying near-illiterate celebs creates big problems," said education specialist Chester Finn at Thomas Fordham Institute who is quoted in the report.

The report was released on the same day that Sweden’s Deputy Education Minister Nyamki Sabuni said it was time “to make performing in school and getting good grades cool”.

Sweden’s Finance Minister Anders Borg also dedicated a large portion of his presentation at Tuesday's Nordic Bank Summit in Stockholm to education, saying Swedish children had to study more.

His government has introduced grades earlier in the Swedish compolsary education system.

The focus on valuing education expressed in Pearson report also featured in Borg’s speech.

“We are on the verge of a cultural shift. We have a new teacher training programme, and that starts now,” he told the Nordic Bank Summit audience.

Borg said the reforms will give more room for wage negotiations pegged to teaching quality.

“In the schools system, 40,000 kronor ($6,000) a month is considered a very high salary," he told the audience.

Borg also said that trainee programmes need reform as young Swedes bear the brunt of unemployment.

He praised trainee programs in Austria and Germany, saying they made young people attractive on the job market.

“Nobody says 'Let’s go to Germany because of the low youth wages!' People chose to have their production in Germany because of the quality, because of the access to the best metal workers and the best engineers.”

Borg also expressed admiration for the study habits of children and teenagers in many Asian nations.

"The Chinese combine hard studying with real entrepreneurial spirit, which means we face a real challenge," Borg said.

He dismissed the notion that countries such as China are at a competitive disadvantage because they do no foster creativity.

“Go to any China Town around the world and look at the entrepreneurial spirit,” Borg said.

Asked by The Local if he made a distinction between creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, he specified that creativity was part and parcel of the arts and research, while entrepreneurial spirit was linked to financial activity.

He said that on a recent trip to Asia a counterpart had praised Swedish after-school activities.

“He said 'it's so amazing that Swedish kids don't do homework in the afternoons and are instead outside playing ball. I wish it was like that here',” Borg said.

“I just thought, what is this man telling me? It's obviously the other way around."

The top 20 best countries for education based on, among other factors, international test scores and the proportion of students who graduate:

• Finland

• South Korea

• Hong Kong

• Japan

• Singapore

• UK

• Netherlands

• New Zealand

• Switzerland

• Canada

• Ireland

• Denmark

• Australia

• Poland

• Germany

• Belgium

• USA

• Hungary

• Slovakia

• Russia

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

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Your comments about this article

19:51 November 27, 2012 by Decedo
Sweden scored below the US? ....scary.
20:05 November 27, 2012 by organic225
Not to mention Russia...
21:08 November 27, 2012 by Freelife
Sweden is 21st.
21:22 November 27, 2012 by just a question
Dear minister,

Nothing will work until you don't give the teachers the authority they don't have now.Change the laws so a teacher is respected in class and can do his/her duty without being interrupted by cellphones, computers, shouts, verbal violence, etc
22:26 November 27, 2012 by Eric1
Study? Why? Studying is for capitalist who want to make money. In a socialistic society there is no need, just sit at home and get money. If you work, it's just taken in taxes, so why work.
02:48 November 28, 2012 by Grokh
@Eric1 come to sweden sit at home with no work and see what happens.... ignorant fool.
03:17 November 28, 2012 by Eric1
Come on Grokh, you are better than the name calling. This works in America and I have seen it work in Sweden. How do you think Obama got elected. He keeps the "free" stuff coming while destroying the country.
08:23 November 28, 2012 by SecondGen
@Eric1;

You need to try living on what the government pays before you think one can do so easily. I live in Chicago, USA and had a nice 6 figure income before being laid off after a corporate merger in the 2009 crash. I had savings and was given a package so it wasn't too bad for me, but if I had been left to unemployment, I would have had to sell my home, my Porsche, other cars and assets... Anyone trying to live on that would be in pain, especially someone living in a big city (after paying my mortgage I would have had less than $700 per month for food, utilities, bills - some of my coworkers who also lost their jobs had mortgages bigger than unemployment pays in a month). That I suspect is why we have so much crime (and such a high shooting rate in Chicago), those on public assistance can't afford basic necessities without turning to crime.

Luckily for me, I found new employment within a year and I'm almost back to my pre-layoff wages, which is much better than some of my coworkers who were laid off and took the first job offered (I used the time to go back to school and do a masters degree - and every other week unemployment would demand I come in and show them my school schedule to show I was only taking night classes and could still work during the day if a job came around).

Those on TANF (Welfare) are limited as to what they can buy. I'm often behind people at the grocery store using iLink cards (Illinois TANF) where they are digging through their order trying to figure out what is causing the purchase to reject. They can't buy candy, booze and other items with the iLink card, which simply creates other opportunities for fraud. Unemployment is different than TANF though and there are no limits to what someone on unemployment can use their money for.

Government pays poverty wages, its not worth sitting around for.
11:24 November 28, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
12:58 November 28, 2012 by Freelife
@Spuds MacKenzie

Sir. Does Sweden just give away citizenship to every refugee on arrival?

Finland and UK too get sizable number of refugees.

Don't you think it is in the interest for the betterment of Sweden, if the govt. makes effort to improve the education system?
21:53 November 30, 2012 by La
'No body says...' doesn't look right to me.
15:34 December 1, 2012 by KossBoss
Eric1 - Must be due to being the number ONE fool here. Quite entertaining ONE as well. Why not go back to high school for some remedial classes, because after reading some of your comments you seem to have slept through most of it all.

Now. Go lookup the word 'socialism' and let's see if you can give an account on what it means. Go on, do your homework, because you have way too little to do boy.
17:11 December 1, 2012 by Bentham
@just a question

Principals and teachers in Sweden have the right to confiscate cellphones or other disturbing objects during lessons, as well as give detentions after school or in the morning before school starts, expel, suspend, replace or move the most unruly students. They may also defend themselves with violence if necessary. In addition, there's a clear behaviour plan that's been implemented at all schools, which works like a stair of measurements that will take place if things yet haven't improved.

So, no, students certainly don't rule the roosts in the schools.
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