Swedish town mulls low pay for bad teachers

A municipality in southern Sweden has moved one step closer to implementing a proposal which would tie teacher pay to students’ performance on national standardized tests.

“The best teachers should be paid the best. And teachers’ most important duty is to pass on knowledge,” said Lars Hemzelius, a member of the Liberal Party and chair of the high school and adult education committee in Trelleborg, to the Metro newspaper.

Starting as soon as the autumn of 2010, high school teachers in Trelleborg may see their paychecks fluctuate depending on how well their pupils score on the tests, following a decision taken by the city’s education committee on Wednesday night.

The decision brings the controversial compensation model forward to the local administrative body governing Trelleborg’s high schools, which is now charged will figuring out how the system will function in practice.

Local politicians are then expected to make a final ruling on the matter in April 2010.

Committee members from the four centre-right Alliance political parties all voted for the proposal, while members from the Social Democratic opposition abstained from participating in the decision.

“The proposal is way too weak and poorly supported,” Social Democrat Johnny Nilsson told the Trelleborgs Allehanda newspaper.

Hemzelius emphasized student performance wouldn’t be the sole determinant of teacher pay, but that it would play an important role under the proposed system.

“It’s an effective instrument for measuring students’ knowledge,” he said of the tests, speaking with the Trelleborg Allehanda newspaper.

“Obviously one’s entire salary shouldn’t depend on students’ performance. Instead it would be a compliment to the current pay system.”

Two of Sweden’s major teachers unions, the Swedish Teachers Union (Lärarförbundet) and the National Union of Teachers in Sweden (Lärarnas Riksförbund) have previously expressed disapproval over the proposal.

“You have to take into account the student’s entire situation and not only look at test results. A student’s development encompasses quite a bit more,” Swedish Teachers Union chair Eva-Lis Sirén told the newspaper when the proposal first came up for discussion in February.

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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.”