Swedish pupils struggle to make grade

Record numbers of Swedish pupils have failed to achieve the grades necessary to advance to the upper high school (gymnasium) level.

At the beginning of the autumn term, 11.2 percent of 16-year-olds had failed to secure a place in a gymnasium programme, according to new statistics released by the National Agency for Education (Skolverket).

Not since the introduction of the new grade system in 1998 have such a high proportion of students missed out on advancement. In previous years these figures have ranged from 10.1 to 10.8 percent.

The agency has indicated that the figures were not unexpected, as recent changes to the teacher training system and the introduction of grades at an earlier age would not have an immediate effect.

“It takes time to turn an oil tanker,” said agency Director General, Per Thullberg.

With a tightening of the requirements needed to achieve a passing grade in mathematics, some 7.2 percent of pupils came up short. This was being viewed as the main reason for this year’s high failure rate.

But while there is clearly some cause for concern, it should also be noted that the average score for ninth grade pupils has in fact improved. This may result from teachers distributing more accurate grades as they become more familiar with the intricacies of the system. Consequently, there has been an increase in the frequency of both high and low grades.

To qualify for a gymnasium programme, pupils must score a passing grade in the three subjects: Mathematics, English and Swedish/Swedish as a Second Language.