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Swedish minister slams grading appeal proposal

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Swedish minister slams grading appeal proposal
12:06 CET+01:00
Swedish students ought to be able to contest the marks they receive in school, a government investigative commission has proposed.

But the country's education was decidedly cool to the proposal.

“My conclusion is that it won’t be carried out,” education minister Jan Björklund told the TT news agency shortly after the proposal was presented on Wednesday.

Björklund had ordered the study following concerns that different teachers grade students in different and often unclear ways.

Not all marks could be reconsidered, according to the commission's findings.

Rather, the commission suggests that students be allowed to contest the final marks they receive at the end of compulsory school in grade 9, which play a role in determining for which high school (gymnasiet) programmes they may qualify.

In addition, students should also be able to contest the marks they receive at the end of high school, the commission proposes, as those marks are an important factor in determining students’ ability to gain admission to higher education programmes.

“We’re very happy that it’s being proposed. This is an issue we’ve been pushing hard for ten years and which is very, very important for the students,” Sofia Brändström, vice chair of students’ rights organisation SVEA (Sveriges elevråd), told Sveriges Radio (SR) ahead of the study's release.

Teachers who gave the marks should change them if the grade is “clearly incorrect”. and students who don’t have their grades changed by their teacher could then appeal the grade to the school’s principal.

If the principal finds that the mark is wrong, he or she can then offer a new mark, according to a statement from the education ministry.

But Björklund was quick to reject the proposal.

“We will listen to agencies considering the proposal, but my preliminary assessment is that it won’t be carried out,” he said.

According to Björklund, the proposal would result in a great deal of bureaucracy and that the appeals process would cost 250 million kronor ($37 million) per year. Allowing grading appeals would also require teachers to document their work.

Moreover, added Björklund, there are more pressing needs at Swedish schools that could addressed with the money required to fund the proposal.

Under the proposal, a student’s written complaint would be submitted to the teacher, who in turn would hand it over to the principal, who would determine if the mark in question was correct in relation to the curriculum and the student’s performance, as indicated by writings, group work, and the teacher’s notes.

“The principal would be able to use others, a teacher or a group of teachers, a teacher panel or board of teachers to review the basis for the teacher’s grading,” commission head Leif Davisson said during a Wednesday press conference in which the commission’s findings were made public.

“If the mark is incorrect, the principal could change the mark, but it can’t end up being a lower mark, but rather unchanged, or higher.”

Teachers could also adjust marks after the fact, but only to a higher mark.

The Central Organisation of Sweden’s Student Councils (Sveriges elevråds centralorganisation – Seco) was positive toward the proposal, but expressed concerns that grading appeals would end up on the desk of the principal of their own schools.

“The fear is that the principal would end up in conflict of interest situation. A teacher works at a school for many years while the student quickly disappears. Of the proposal becomes reality, the actual possibility to have your marks corrected is pretty small, we think,” Seco spokesperson Mattias Hallberg told the TT news agency.

Ahead of the 2010 general elections, Sweden’s three centre-left parties said they supported efforts that would give students the ability to appeal grading decisions.

The Centre Party and the Christian Democrats have also indicated they support the concept, while Björklund and his fellow Liberals (Folkpartiet) have expressed reservations, according to SR.

Previously, Björklund has suggested that other reforms such as clearer goals and an expanded grading scale should be implemented to make grading fairer.

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