“There is too much truancy in Sweden and it is not acceptable. There’s no place of work where you can come and go as you like and that shouldn’t be possible in school either,“ Björklund said in defence of his scheme.
The Liberal Party leader, who introduced a comparable system during his time as Stockholm education chief, has long been calling for truancy details to be included nationwide in the report cards of primary school (grundskola) students as well as the cumulative grade reports of high school (gymnasium) students.
Social Democrat leader Håkan Juholt, who claims never to have been absent without leave from school, said that he was “deeply upset” that truancy would show up in school reports.
Several authorities have also expressed concern over the new system, among them the Ombudsman for Children in Sweden (Barnombudsmannen – BO), the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) and the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen).
According to the schools agency, it is often difficult to determine what is actually an unauthorised absence.
The Schools Inspectorate has warned that differences in schools’ reporting of absence hours could lead to some children being treated unfairly.
The Ombudsman also fears that the truancy report will be detrimental to childrens’ self esteem.
But according to Björklund, truancy levels fell in Stockholm when he introduced the scheme there ten years ago.
“I am convinced that once it is included on a report card, it becomes more real to the students. Many of them will then pull themselves together and abstain from truancy,” Björklund said.
Björklund thinks that the Ombudsman’s critique is referring to a small group of heavy-duty truants, a group that need more measures than a school report to combat their social problems.
“No seven-year-old starts schools as a serious truant. This is a behaviour which develops during time spent at school and I am confident we will have fewer students who end up as outsiders in their teens if we make a clear stand that we will not accept any truancy early on, “ Björklund said.
Today ten percent of students in primary education are absent without leave on a regular basis. In high school that number is even higher.
The first truancy reports will appear at the end of the autumn school term in 2012.