The results, presented on Thursday by the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket), show that Swedish students are very advanced in the English language.
A total of 66 percent of 15-year-olds reached the highest required level in reading comprehension, while 77 percent did the same for listening comprehension.
However, Swedish students didn’t perform as well when it came to writing in English. While only 28 percent reached the highest score level in written English, a large number of Swedish students reached the next to highest level.
While the study included students from 14 countries, only students from Sweden and France were tested in Spanish, with Swedish pupils posting much weaker results.
24 percent of Swedish students didn’t reach what is required of beginner level Spanish in reading comprehension.
For listening comprehension the result was 37 percent and for written Spanish 45 percent. The French students were somewhat better at Spanish than the Swedes, the study found.
According to the education agency, the discrepancy between students’ abilities in English and Spanish can have several explanations. English is a higher status language and is also perceived as more useful.
In addition, students are more likely to come in contact with English in their spare time, according to the agency.
Swedes are exposed to the language at a younger age, and English classes are obligatory in Swedish schools.
The countries that took part in the study were Sweden, Belgium, Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Britain, Estonia, France, Greece, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.
A total of 53,000 students were tested, of which 3,000 were Swedish. All countries took part with the two foreign languages studied by the largest number of students.
The children’s language skills were measures after the common reference for language skills in Europe and the student’s abilities were graded into five levels of proficiency.