It has been twenty years since the Swedish school system was decentralised, putting control of public schools with local municipality authorities
At the time, the move was meant to improve the standard of education and the situation for teachers in Sweden.
However, according to the minister for education, Jan Björklund, the result has been the opposite.
“The worst part is that the municipalities that most need resources put into their schools usually have the least to spend on them,” Björklund writes in an article published on Monday in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper, along with Metta Fjelkner, head of the National Union of Teachers (Lärarnas Riksförbund).
According to Björklund and Fjelkner there is a widening gap between resources spent on schools in different municipalities.
The two argue that the priorities of local governing bodies, rather than the needs of students, now dictate where the resources are spent.
In addition, control over schools in Sweden is “unclear” and conditions haven’t improved for Sweden’s teachers, who today find themselves among the worst paid in the OECD countries, wrote Björklund and Fjelkner.
While the state continues to regulate education through laws, the curriculum and teacher education, the municipalities are responsible for running schools and making decisions about funding and resource management.
This leads to a confused system where both blame each other for the system’s failings, according to Fjelkner and Björklund.
Although the government in recent years has established several ways of regulating the system, both Björklund and Fjelkner feel that these efforts are not enough and that it is time for the state to resume control in order to give all Swedish students an equivalent education regardless of which school they attend.
But Sweden’s largest teachers’ union, the Teachers’ Union of Sweden (Lärarförbundet), is skeptical about the proposed renationalisation.
“We think that this would simply be a costly reform which wouldn’t benefit either students or teachers,” Pontus Haag, a spokesperson with Teachers’ Union of Sweden, told The Local.
“However, it is true that clear guidelines are needed in order to make sure that students get the same level of education regardless of where they go to school.”