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Awful grades no barrier for would-be teachers

The Local · 27 Mar 2013, 17:49

Published: 27 Mar 2013 11:51 GMT+01:00
Updated: 27 Mar 2013 17:49 GMT+01:00

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In a series of articles on the state of Swedish schools, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper on Wednesday showed that Sweden's teacher training colleges accepted 123 candidates last year who scored 0.1 of 2.0 in the Swedish tertiary education entrance exam (högskoleprovet).

People sitting the test who decided to only tick option C for every answer in the multiple-choice exam would have scored higher, earning a 0.4 grade.

The national average for students accepted into teacher training colleges was 0.5, DN reported.

Karin Mårdsjö Blume, head of teacher training at Linköping University, said the national quota system that dictates how people get into university was partly to blame.

Thirty percent of entrants to universities and colleges get in through taking the exam, rather than on the basis of their high-school grades (gymnasiebetyg).

In other words, some students with good grades from school could raise their chances of getting in by instead going down the entrance exam route, where less than ideal candidates are now getting in through an administrative back door.

"This is basically a question about what path you take into education. We at Linköping University have made the assessment that the quota is probably too big," Mårdsjö Blume told The Local.

"We think the education ministry should be looking at this. We, meanwhile, have heard it might be possible to apply for a quota system exemption, which we are considering looking into."

Mårdsjö Blume added that there were few applicants to teach grades four to nine, when the pupils are aged ten to 15 (mellanstadiet and högstadiet), meaning teacher training was extra vulnerable to candidates with low test scores.

Education Minister Jan Björklund, meanwhile, said the underlying problem was how undesirable the profession had become.

"Putting the schools in the hands of the municipalities has been disastrous," he told the TT news agency.

Story continues below…

Björklund said the number of candidates had steadily decreased for the past two decades.

"When the state ran the schools there were many more applicants," said Björklund, who also heads the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), which is alone in the Swedish political landscape in wanting to wrest power over the schools back from local government to the national level.

Ann Törnkvist

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The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:17 March 27, 2013 by Khazara
This article is poorly written. Furthermore, "Putting a spanner" is a horrible idiom. Update, American English is modern English. Anyway, the second, third and sixth paragraphs do not fit the title of the article.
16:55 March 27, 2013 by Abe L
That's because the industry rejects start teaching at universities, not the real talent. Hence you have sub-par and often unqualified staff teaching your kids. The only way to fix that is by closing the salary gap with the commercial section, something that is unlikely to happen.
17:34 March 27, 2013 by Borilla
#1 What exactly is the value of your contribution? #2 You are incorrect with regard to the quality and the dedication of university faculty. Perhaps if you had attended one you might understand.

The municipalities are destroying public education, aided greatly by the moderates and their drive to privatize education and thereby degrade it even more. Viz, the recent Updrag granstning expose of the commune with the fifth rate hockey team whose board is busy lining its pockets by building a new arena and giving the team sweetheart tax deals at the expense of the schools.

An uneducated citizenry equals an poor citizenry which, as a 18th century Swedish economist said, is a good thing because the more poor people you have, the more cheap workers to enrich the upper classes.
21:39 March 27, 2013 by johan rebel
"Updrag granstning"?

Please apply for a post as a svensklärare, you will single-handedly raise standards overnight.
10:19 March 28, 2013 by Logic_and_Reason
Right now, schools do not compete with each other to attract teachers because the number of teachers available is too high. Instead, the teachers are competing with each other to fill too few teaching positions, thus driving teacher wages down. This is a result of the fact that schools can employ whomever they want to fill a teaching position. Consequently, the labor pool for teaching slots is endless since any old unemployed sot can land a teaching gig. I should know because I am one of the minions of untrained, uncertified teachers who spent many years teaching in Swedish free schools for low pay, thus driving down the wages for my colleagues. For that, I am truly sorry. The government's recent move to demand teacher training credentials for all teachers is a step in the right direction since it will remove all the non-teachers from the labor pool and diminish the supply. The declining number of students entering teacher training due to the industry's low wages and status will also drive up teacher pay once schools find themselves hard-pressed to employ certified teachers, at which point they will start to compete with other schools for the services of teachers.

What Finland did was to make teacher training programs more challenging, more stimulating and much more difficult to get into. They limited the number of spots in the teacher training program and took only the most talented students. This created pride among the teacher training students, respect for teachers among peers (and society at large), and a greater desire to enter teaching among high-school graduates. Competition to become a teacher in Finland became intense and the supply of teachers was not only limited, but it was limited to top talent. This drove wages up and those people in teaching tended to stay in the profession much longer than in countries like Sweden, where wages and respect are low.

But there is one last and very important key to this puzzle. There is no incentive for schools to increase teacher wages if teaching talent does not lead directly to increase profitability. The government pays schools based on the number of students enrolled, but does not consider the number of teachers in the school or their level of education. So why would a school pay higher wages for better talent if the money coming into the school is the exact same when employing cheaper teachers? If the algorithm were changed so that schools would receive greater funding for employing teachers with higher levels of training and more experience, then we might see greater investment by the schools (aka higher wages) in top quality teachers since doing so would lead directly to greater funding from the government.
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