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.


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