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Unions welcome teacher training overhaul

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Unions welcome teacher training overhaul
16:06 CET+01:00
In a move welcomed by Sweden's teaching unions, the government has proposed a raft of sweeping changes to the country's teacher training system.

Under the terms of the proposal, presented on Thursday by Education Minister Jan Björklund and Minister for Higher Education and Research Tobias Krantz, all universities and colleges offering teacher training courses will be forced reapply for the right to certify educators.

Any institutions failing to meet the provisions laid out in a new set of teacher training standards will lose the right to educate Sweden's future educators.

The most far-reaching change involves replacing today's unified teaching certificate with four separate qualifications, one each for preschool teaching, primary teaching (grades 1-6), fixed subjects (grades 7-9, high school 1-3), and vocational teaching.

"In a country wishing to invest in the future, the teaching profession is the most important profession of all," Björklund told reporters.

"Teacher training courses have been heavily criticized for a number of years. Many teachers lack the proper competence in their subjects," he added.

The education minister further stated that interest had waned among potential new teachers in line with a widespread view that the demands placed on budding educators were unreasonably low.

Any institutions wishing to offer the new teacher training courses, including those that already provide similar programmes, will be required to apply for permission from the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket).

The government also plans to look into the possibility of requiring teacher training applicants to take aptitude tests as a means of gauging their suitability for the role. Even if approved however, aptitude tests will not be introduced until 2013 at the earliest.

The proposal was welcomed by Mette Fjelkner, chairperson of the National Union of Teachers (Lärarnas Riksförbund).

"This is a major step forward. It means that teacher training in Sweden will become more modern and better adapted to real-life needs," she told news agency TT.

Fjelkner's counterpart at the Swedish Teachers' Union (Lärarförbundet), Eva-Lis Sirén, was also broadly receptive to the proposal.

Both however expressed concern that teachers in grades 1-3 (ages 7-9 approx.) would emerge from training college with only superficial knowledge of a range of subjects considered too broad by the union chiefs.

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