Pupils to face tests at 11

Pupils at Swedish schools will face tests in Swedish, maths and literacy at the age of 11, schools minister Jan Björklund has announced.

Writing in Dagens Nyheter on Wednesday, Björklund announced that the government will reintroduce government-set knowledge targets for pupils in elementary school. Björklund said the move will guarantee that extra support can be provided to pupils who need it.

The national tests will ensure that pupils have reached the targets. The first tests will be given to pupils at the end of spring term in 2009.

So far, the Swedish school system has reflected the Social Democrats’ principles. This has meant avoiding identifying weaker students and promoting equality in the classrooms; less gifted students were to feel as intelligent as the brighter ones.

Björklund argues that the Swedish school system is preoccupied by promoting “soft transitions” between different school stages and preventing students with poor results “feeling singled out”. This has resulted in students being allowed to move up a grade regardless of whether they have met the targets.

Roger Bodin, first vice chairman of Lärarförbundet, Sweden’s largest teacher union, told The Local national tests were unecessary.

“We are happy but at the same time critical to the decision. Measuring students’ knowledge is done by the teachers all the time and therefore I don’t see why it should be done in the form of national tests,” said Bodin.

Bodin added the real focus should be on the teachers who will be able to provide students with the special help they need.

“We are happy to see that Björklund has realized the importance of early investments in schools, but it is also very important to create good working conditions for the teachers so they can provide the students with the support they need. The students who need an extra help are entitled to by law and unfortunately not all of them are getting it because of lack of resources.”