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EDUCATION

Swedish school pupils falling behind

Swedish pupils still perform above average in the majority of international studies conducted over the last 20 years, the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) has concluded.

Swedish school pupils falling behind

But performance has declined and Swedish pupils are falling behind.

“The development is comprehensively negative,” the agency has concluded in a new study compiling results from both international and national studies completed in recent decades.

The new survey broadly confirms the analysis made by the education minister, Jan Björklund. His interpretation of the agency’s statistics has been questioned by opposition politicians and led to him commissioning a comprehensive study.

Sweden is above average in reading comprehension in all the surveys. In the natural sciences Sweden had been above average in all the studies until 2007 when it fell below in one of them.

In maths Swedish pupils are currently above or on the average in all studies.

The reason behind Sweden’s relative decline with regards to results is not only due to improvements in the performance of pupils in comparable countries, the agency explained.

“Sweden’s results in the surveys are declining,” according to the agency. The period under consideration is from 1991 to 2007.

Jan Björklund was quick to point the finger at the opposition after the agency published its findings.

“The opposition has to lift its head out of the sand. It is the Social Democrats that over 30 years have created the schools policy that has led to this problem, and they now have to re-think. I understand that they had hoped that the education agency would find fault in my judgement, but the board does not.”

Björklund expressed concern over the development and called for action.

“The situation is very worrying. The results are declining in key subjects in Swedish schools, and that is why education policy is being quite radically restructured,” he said.

Marie Granlund, the education spokesperson for the opposition Social Democracts, denied however that the agency’s findings support the minister’s description of the situation.

“No. Of course not! But that is not the same thing as saying that there are not challenges to be faced. The report clearly shows that he has made a mess of the statistics. That he throws around words that are very, very exaggerated and creates a picture that the Swedish schools system as in crisis.”

“I think that the most important thing is that we address the problem.”

The education agency’s director-general Per Thullberg concludes that the development in Swedish schools is concerning.

“It is serious when 25 percent of the pupils in Swedish schools can not cope with the basic school subjects. It is serious when ten percent of school pupils do not have sufficient knowledge to get into upper secondary school programmes (gymnasium). It is serious when Swedish pupils lose ground in comparison with those in other countries and perform worse in real terms,” he said.

DISCRIMINATION

Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

Parents with Arabic-sounding names get a less friendly response and less help when choosing schools in Sweden, according to a new study from the University of Uppsala.

Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

In one of the largest discrimination experiments ever carried out in the country, 3,430 primary schools were contacted via email by a false parent who wanted to know more about the school. The parent left information about their name and profession.

In the email, the false parent stated that they were interested in placing their child at the school, and questions were asked about the school’s profile, queue length, and how the application process worked. The parent was either low-educated (nursing assistant) or highly educated (dentist). Some parents gave Swedish names and others gave “Arabic-sounding” names.

The report’s author, Jonas Larsson Taghizadeh said that the study had demonstrated “relatively large and statistically significant negative effects” for the fictional Arabic parents. 

“Our results show that responses to emails signed with Arabic names from school principals are less friendly, are less likely to indicate that there are open slots, and are less likely to contain positive information about the school,” he told The Local. 

READ ALSO: Men with foreign names face job discrimination in Sweden: study

The email responses received by the fictional Arabic parents were rated five percent less friendly than those received by the fictional Swedish parents, schools were 3.2 percentage points less likely to tell Arabic parents that there were open slots at the school, and were 3.9 percentage points less likely to include positive information about the municipality or the school. 

There was no statistically significant difference in the response rate and number of questions answered by schools to Swedish or Arabic-sounding parents. 

Taghizadeh said that there was more discrimination against those with a low social-economic status job than against those with an Arabic name, with the worst affected group being those who combined the two. 

“For socioeconomic discrimination, the results are similar, however, here the discrimination effects are somewhat larger,” he told The Local. 

Having a high economic status profession tended to cancel out the negative effects of having an Arabic name. 

“The discrimination effects are substantially important, as they could potentially indirectly influence parents’ school choice decision,” Taghizadeh said.

Investigating socioeconomic discrimination is also important in itself, as discrimination is seldom studied and as explicit discrimination legislation that bans class-based discrimination is rare in Western countries including Sweden, in contrast to laws against ethnic discrimination.” 

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