• Sweden edition
 
Sweden's failing schools
'We should have nationalized our schools'
Education Minister Jan Björklund. Photo: Leif R. Jansson/TT

'We should have nationalized our schools'

Published: 03 Dec 2013 15:17 GMT+01:00
Updated: 03 Dec 2013 15:17 GMT+01:00

Sweden's education minister on Tuesday blamed the country's fall from grace in the Pisa global education ranking on municipalities' "lack of competence", saying his government should have nationalized the schools already seven years ago.

"This is the final nail in the coffin for the old school reform," said a pensive Jan Björklund as he welcomed reporters to government headquarters Rosenbad in central Stockholm following the release on Tuesday of the OECD's annual ranking of schools in 65 developed countries and economies. He nonetheless made sure not to lay all the blame for the tumble in maths, reading, and natural sciences at the door of the politicians in charge at the time.
 
"The downturn was expected, it's been ongoing for 20 years," Björklund summarized. "Regardless of who is to blame, the pupils (measured in the latest Pisa) went through the old school system." 
 
According to the latest Pisa results released on Tuesday, Sweden now ranks below the OECD average in all three subject areas, faring worse than the United States and the UK.
 
The Liberal Party politician said he had taken the opportunity to reflect on things his own government could have done to hit the brakes on the slide - including wresting power from the municipalities, which were put in charge of running schools back in 1991, and once again managing schools on a national level. 
 
"We should have made them state-controlled schools again back in 2006 or 2007," he said in reference to the government taking power in 2006. "To lift the results requires competence that the 290 municipalities don't have."
 
He also stayed true to his oft-cited concern about "pupil-led education", in which students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning. 
 
"We should have put the focus on teacher-led education (katederundervisning) much sooner," he said, adding that boys did not fare as well as girls did in the less-structured system. 
 
Earlier this year, Björklund told The Local that he admired the focus on rules and decorum at the free-school consortium The International English School. 
 
"The English School could be a role model for municipal schools," he said. 
 
The minister remained upbeat, despite Sweden's unparalleled tumble in the rankings, that the trend could be reversed. The worst thing that the opposition could do, he told The Local on Tuesday, was to go back to the old system if they take power in next year's elections. 
 
Björklund took the opportunity to present the head of a new schools agency, Skolforskningsinstitutet, Professor Per Thullberg, who at the press conference said that a raft of education reforms introduced by the government in 2011 - including licences for teachers and national testing from grade three -  would hopefully make a dent in the poor results "by the end of this decade." 
 
The opposition, however, said Björklund should not shirk responsibility for the poor results.
 
"It's everyone's fault but his own," Green Party spokesman Gustaf Fridolin wrote in an op-ed in Aftonbladet on Tuesday. "There are several countries that have reversed a (negative) trend, strengthened the pupils' knowledge of math, and increased the number of applicants to teacher training in significantly shorter time than Björklund has had as minister." 

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Police seeking missing Swede in London
Sofie Marie Jansson, who is currently missing in London. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Police seeking missing Swede in London

British police have issued a plea for tips in the search to find Swedish national Sofie Marie Jansson who hasn't been seen for almost a week. READ () »

University applications rocket to record high

University applications rocket to record high

Swedish universities continue to draw vast amounts of applicants with the number of prospective students seeking a third level education increasing for the seventh year in a row. READ () »

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot
Swedish artist Lars Vilks pictured in New York in 2012. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf/TT

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot

American authorities have sentenced a 20-year-old accomplice of 'Jihad Jane' to five years in prison for an attempted terror plot to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, after getting involved with the murder plans when he was a teenager. READ () »

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag visits a school in Tensta, one of the neighbourhoods mentioned when he and his colleagues first floated the new start zone proposal. File: TT

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input

Sweden has abandoned a plan to ease taxes for small companies in blighted areas after the European Commission challenged its legality. READ () »

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'
A typical Swedish Easter egg. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'

A Swedish microbiologist has warned that traditional Swedish Easter eggs laden with candy are an open invitation to the spread of bacteria and viruses. "Is this really a good idea?" he asked. READ () »

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour

PICTURES: A truck got wedged inside a tunnel in central Stockholm on Thursday, with authorities concerned the accident may have damaged cables in the tunnel's ceiling. READ () »

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
A Swedish Easter witch holding daffodils. File photo: TT

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter

In India, I'd notice Easter only from the traffic jam outside the churches, but here witches, egg hunts, and feathers mark the Christian holiday. The Local's Deepti Vashisht brings you the various shades of Swedish Easter. READ () »

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Chemtrails?: Shutterstock.

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe

A Swedish MP who launched an official government investigation into the existence of chemtrails tells The Local why he thinks Swedes deserve the truth, even if it may leave some conspiracy theorists unsatisfied. READ () »

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid
Fredrik Reinfeldt answers the constitutional affairs committee's questions. Photo: TT

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid

Sweden's prime minister on Thursday said Vattenfall itself, not its owners the Swedish state, had responsibility for the loss-making Nuon deal. READ () »

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer
Photo: TT

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer

A Swedish lawyer says the Swedish military may have broken the law when it raided the Malmö premises of German defence giant Thyssen Krupp. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Advertisement:
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Society
Jimi Fritze heard every word when doctors discussed taking his organs
Society
A Swedish farmer explains why the new bestiality ban is 'pointless'
ESL
Sponsored Article
Learning Swedish the easy way
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

771
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com