Sweden looks to halt maths education slide

Education authorities want the government to spend billions on promoting 'collegial learning' to improve maths education in Sweden so students once again find themselves ranked among the top in Europe.

Sweden looks to halt maths education slide

The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) has proposed the government spend between 1.3 and 2 billion kronor ($200 to 318 million), primarily on programmes to help improve the skills and capabilities of the country’s mathematics teachers, Sveriges Radio (SR) reports.

The focus of the spending will be on initiatives to promote ‘collegial learning’, that allow maths teachers to learn more from one another, as well as have access to experts.

The creation of a web-based platform for sharing best practices has also been proposed.

“There is a lot or research which suggests that just one collegial conversation, a collegial lesson, based on where the teachers find themselves, on the challenges and situations the teacher sees everyday, can affect the teachers in a positive way and create good conditions that can lead to changes in lecturing patterns,” the agency’s Anders Palm told SR.

The suggestion comes in response to a nearly decade-long slide in the Swedish students’ maths skills.

In primary school, students are often taught maths by sitting at their desks and working out simple problems from workbooks, a method which is viewed as counterproductive.

And one in three high school teachers have said they don’t know exactly what students should be learning, while half of middle-school teachers have been shown to lack the right credentials, according to SR.

Research has also shown that improving the quality of lessons is the only way to help students improve their results.

At the behest of the government, the National Agency for Education has been tasked with finding ways to combat the problem and estimates its proposed solution will cost 80 million kronor in the first year.

According to the agency’s timetable, every math teacher in the Sweden will have participated in the programme by 2016.

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Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime