Swedish schools to offer ‘elite’ courses

Sweden’s National Agency for Education (Skolverket) on Thursday named 10 high schools to participate in a new initiative designed to give top performing students a chance to take university-level courses.

The ground-breaking programme comes following a government decision last autumn giving the agency the power to grant exemptions to traditional high school recruitment and admissions practices.

The exemptions allow chosen high schools to recruit students from around the country and implement more stringent admissions requirements to ensure that the classes are made up of top-quality students.

Previously, only specialty arts and athletics high schools had been granted such exemptions.

In December, around 100 high schools submitted applications to Skolverket for permission to administer the so called ‘elite-classes’ for students with exceptional interest in mathematics, natural science, social science, or the humanities.

Schools were judged on the quality of their proposed programmes, including a partnership with a university or college which would allow high school students admitted to the programmes to enroll in university-level courses.

The agency plans to accept another 10 schools interested in joining the programme for the 2010 academic year.

The ten schools named on Thursday, which will admit students for the 2009 academic year, include Katedral school and Polhem school in Lund in southern Sweden; Danderyds gymnasium and Globala gymnasiet in Stockholm; Europa school in Strängnas in central Sweden; Ehrensvärdska gymnasiet in Karlskrona in southern Sweden; Fässbergsgymnasiet in Mölndal in western Sweden; and Härnösands gymnasium, Luleå gymnasieby and Gävle’s Vasaskolan in northern Sweden.

The idea for advanced courses came about following a meeting of Nordic ministers looking for a way to overcame what was seen as a drop in math and science competence among students from the region.

Last spring, education minister Jan Björklund expressed his wish to see a programme that gave more opportunities to high achieving students.

“Even exceptional students have the right to develop at their own pace. They shouldn’t have to sit and twiddle their thumbs and wait for their colleagues,” he told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper at the time.

While Skolverket’s Charlotte Wieslander admitted the initiative may be based on a political decision, she emphasized that the goal of the programme is clear.

“We need to get more students who want to study maths and the natural sciences at universities and colleges,” she told SvD.


Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime