Sweden to beef up teacher licencing system

The Swedish government has proposed implementing a new licencing system for teachers starting in 2012.

Sweden to beef up teacher licencing system

Only qualified teachers will be able to find permanent employment and receive certification, according to a proposal unveiled by education minister Jan Björklund outlined on Monday.

To become licenced, a teacher must have graduated with a teaching degree and undergone an introduction period of at least one year.

One in five teachers in Swedish schools currently lack qualifications to teach. However, half of them have permanent positions and will be able to keep their jobs, according to Björklund.

“One must respect labour laws. However, since they no longer grant certification, it puts pressure on municipalities to provide them with training so that they become licensed,” he says.

When the licencing system is introduced, it will also force municipal authorities to find qualified teachers, Björklund believes.

“It may be cheaper now to employ unlicenced staff, which may affect how much effort municipalities put into hiring. We will change this when we increase demands,” he said.

The proposal would grant a three-year transitional period for schools with a large number of unlicensed personnel to minimise the number of potential problems they could possibly face.

During that time, the schools will be able to train the unlicenced teachers.

The government’s aim is that the new licencing system will elevate the status of the teaching profession, which will entice more people to want to work as teachers.

“There is currently a teacher shortage, particularly in scientific subjects, because it pays better to work in industry,” said Björklund.

The government’s proposal to establish a teacher licencing system was also welcomed by the political opposition.

“A licencing system contributes to ensuring the quality of the teaching profession as a whole and elevating the status of the teaching profession. In this way, the teaching profession will become more attractive,” Social Democratic education policy spokesman Mikael Damberg said in a statement.

However, Damberg emphasised that it wanted to ensure that there are sufficient quality demands made in the first induction year for new teachers.

“We will examine this part of the reform in particular,” he said.

He also indicates that the Social Democrats want to see a broad bipartisan agreement on key elements of school policy.

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Distance learning remains a ‘possibility’ for Swedish schools: Education minister

Remote learning remains a possibility, but not an obligation, for schools in Sweden as students around the country begin term this week, the Education Minister said on Wednesday.

Distance learning remains a 'possibility' for Swedish schools: Education minister
Education Minister Anna Ekström (L) and general director of the Schools Inspectorate, Helén Ängmo. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Minister Anna Ekström made the comments during a press conference in which she outlined the rules ahead of back-to-school season but did not make any new announcements.

She urged schools to be “flexible”, outlining some of the measures which have been recommended by the National Board of Education since an early stage in the pandemic.

This include changing furniture arrangements to promote distancing, staggering lesson and break times to prevent students mixing in large groups, and increasing cleaning. Many parent-teacher meetings are likely to be cancelled, she said.

Schools for under-16s have remained open throughout the pandemic, and Ekström said this decision was based on research showing children were affected by the virus to a lesser extent. “The younger the child, the more mild the symptoms,” she said.

In Sweden, only one of the almost 6,000 people to have died after testing positive for the coronavirus was aged under 10, and none of the victims have been in the 10-19 age group.

Ekström added that no occupational group linked to schools had been over-represented in Sweden's coronavirus statistics.

In addition to taking this kind of measures, heads of schools have also been given additional decision-making powers.

These include the ability to switch to remote learning, or make other changes such as adapting the timetable (including moving lessons to weekends) if necessary due to the infection situation. 

“If the situation gets worse, teaching can be moved partially or entirely to distance learning. This could happen in the whole country, individual schools, or in municipalities or regions where schools may need to close as a measure to prevent spread of infection,” Ekström said.

“The government is prepared to take measures, but we don't want to close schools.”