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EDUCATION

Agency slams Swedish maths teaching

The teaching of mathematics in Swedish high schools (gymnasium) has been broadly criticised by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) in a new report published on Tuesday.

Agency slams Swedish maths teaching

“Many high school students are not given opportunities to really understand mathematics. They thus risk losing the necessary skills for a future career and life in society,” the inspectorate said in a statement on the report.

The inspectorate has studied and assessed the teaching of mathematics at 55 high schools in Sweden and concluded that the overall standard is below par.

“Most of the 150 classes which we attended are dedicated for the most part to the mechanics of calculation. Teaching which trains problem solving and mathematical creativity took a back seat,” said Monica Gillenius at the inspectorate.

The study looked at whether teachers at Sweden’s high schools follow the national curriculum, finding that many students are not taught the full spectrum of maths, receiving instruction in only limited areas of the specified course.

The main conclusions detailed in the report are that many teachers lack sufficient knowledge of the curriculum, they make classes unnecessarily complicated for students who are not sufficiently challenged, and that results differ considerably between school tests and national examinations.

Furthermore the report concludes that many pupils feel under-stimulated and think that maths is boring.

The results of the survey have been compiled into a comprehensive report, with each school receiving demands and recommendations to improve.

“In order for all pupils to receive the education that they are entitled to, a focused and vigorous development in virtually all the examined schools is required,” the inspectorate concluded.

The Local reported in December 2009 that the performance of Swedish high school students in maths and physics had declined considerably in the last decade in an international comparison.

According to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) Swedish pupils had dropped the farthest in both maths and physics among the four countries which participated in the TIMSS in both 1995 and 2008.

In the 2008 study, Sweden had fallen to second to last place when it came to students’ knowledge of maths among the ten countries included in the study.

Sweden was also found to offer less class time in both maths and physics compared to the other countries in the study.

Monica Gillenius cited Japan as an example for Sweden to follow.

“Their teachers reason together over teaching methods. They determine a problem and talk about how they can teach in order for it to be comprehensible for the students,” she said.

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EDUCATION

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

Children between ages 6-9 years should be allowed admittance to after-school recreation centers free of charge, according to a report submitted to Sweden’s Minister of Education Lotta Edholm (L).

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

“If this reform is implemented, after-school recreation centers will be accessible to the children who may have the greatest need for the activities,” said Kerstin Andersson, who was appointed to lead a government inquiry into expanding access to after-school recreation by the former Social Democrat government. 

More than half a million primary- and middle-school-aged children spend a large part of their school days and holidays in after-school centres.

But the right to after-school care is not freely available to all children. In most municipalities, it is conditional on the parent’s occupational status of working or studying. Thus, attendance varies and is significantly lower in areas where unemployment is high and family finances weak.

In this context, the previous government formally began to inquire into expanding rights to leisure. The report was recently handed over to Sweden’s education minister, Lotta Edholm, on Monday.

Andersson proposed that after-school activities should be made available free of charge to all children between the ages of six and nine in the same way that preschool has been for children between the ages of three and five. This would mean that children whose parents are unemployed, on parental leave or long-term sick leave will no longer be excluded. 

“The biggest benefit is that after-school recreation centres will be made available to all children,” Andersson said. “Today, participation is highest in areas with very good conditions, while it is lower in sparsely populated areas and in areas with socio-economic challenges.” 

Enforcing this proposal could cause a need for about 10,200 more places in after-school centre, would cost the state just over half a billion kronor a year, and would require more adults to work in after-school centres. 

Andersson recommends recruiting staff more broadly, and not insisting that so many staff are specialised after-school activities teachers, or fritidspedagod

“The Education Act states that qualified teachers are responsible for teaching, but that other staff may participate,” Andersson said. “This is sometimes interpreted as meaning that other staff may be used, but preferably not’. We propose that recognition be given to so-called ‘other staff’, and that they should be given a clear role in the work.”

She suggested that people who have studied in the “children’s teaching and recreational programmes” at gymnasium level,  people who have studied recreational training, and social educators might be used. 

“People trained to work with children can contribute with many different skills. Right now, it might be an uncertain work situation for many who work for a few months while the employer is looking for qualified teachers”, Andersson said. 

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