More grades, less English and Maths

Swedish schools should cater better for those who don't want to go to university, and the number of pupils who drop out of school should be reduced. That is the argument of Sweden's opposition parties, which have presented joint proposals for reforms to the education system.

After months of disagreement about changes to the country’s schools, the centre-right parties of the Alliance have presented an outline of how they would like to reform education after the election.

“I think that this can be a deciding factor in the election,” said Sten Tolgfors, the Moderate Party’s education spokesman.

“At a time when the schools minister has failed in the presentation of his proposals, we are increasingly in agreement.”

Under the proposals the current system, under which all courses at upper secondary school (gymnasia) prepare for entry to university, will be abolished. Vocational courses will no longer steer students towards higher education, and will not compel students to study the current ‘core subjects’ of maths, English, Swedish, social studies, religious studies, natural science, sports and arts.

“I think the fact that you have to study the same core subjects whether you are going to study medicine or go directly onto the job market to do manual work is the reason for today’s drop-out rate.”

“On the other hand, there should be a bridge to higher education – everyone who wants to continue should have that chance,” said Tolgfors.

But Ibrahim Baylan, schools minister, said the Alliance’s proposals would increase the drop-out rate.

“They’re talking about higher standards but they want to remove the requirement to study core subjects for students on vocational courses, which will hit working class children first and foremost,” he said.

The Alliance also wants to raise the entrance requirements for gymnasia. They say that the requirements should vary depending on the difficulty of the programme. The requirements should reflect the level of knowledge needed, the parties argue.

They also want make it harder to tactically choose easy subjects in order to get into college. In the future, harder courses will have greater weight.

The Alliance also wants to reintroduce a wider range of grades at gymnasia level. The last centre-right government introduced six grades in its 1994 reforms, but the Social Democrats then reduced this number to three.

The ‘individual programme’ for less able children, or those who for other reasons do not qualify for mainstream courses, will be abolished over time, meaning that pupils who do not finish lower secondary school (grundskola) will not go on to gymnasia.

“We need to get rid of this ‘send them on’ mentality. Gymnasia should not have to compensate for the failings of lower secondary school,” said Tolgfors.

But Ibrahim Baylan says that this is the most worrying of all the opposition’s proposals.

“This is deeply worrying,” he said.

“What should pupils do after class 9 (age 15-16)? They will be dropped into a job market that doesn’t want them. The Right is taking away the right to a second chance that so many pupils need.”

TT/The Local