Awful grades no barrier for would-be teachers

Sweden's teacher training colleges are admitting students who score very poorly in entrance exams, a new review has shown.

Awful grades no barrier for would-be teachers

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.

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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Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

Parents with Arabic-sounding names get a less friendly response and less help when choosing schools in Sweden, according to a new study from the University of Uppsala.

Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

In one of the largest discrimination experiments ever carried out in the country, 3,430 primary schools were contacted via email by a false parent who wanted to know more about the school. The parent left information about their name and profession.

In the email, the false parent stated that they were interested in placing their child at the school, and questions were asked about the school’s profile, queue length, and how the application process worked. The parent was either low-educated (nursing assistant) or highly educated (dentist). Some parents gave Swedish names and others gave “Arabic-sounding” names.

The report’s author, Jonas Larsson Taghizadeh said that the study had demonstrated “relatively large and statistically significant negative effects” for the fictional Arabic parents. 

“Our results show that responses to emails signed with Arabic names from school principals are less friendly, are less likely to indicate that there are open slots, and are less likely to contain positive information about the school,” he told The Local. 

READ ALSO: Men with foreign names face job discrimination in Sweden: study

The email responses received by the fictional Arabic parents were rated five percent less friendly than those received by the fictional Swedish parents, schools were 3.2 percentage points less likely to tell Arabic parents that there were open slots at the school, and were 3.9 percentage points less likely to include positive information about the municipality or the school. 

There was no statistically significant difference in the response rate and number of questions answered by schools to Swedish or Arabic-sounding parents. 

Taghizadeh said that there was more discrimination against those with a low social-economic status job than against those with an Arabic name, with the worst affected group being those who combined the two. 

“For socioeconomic discrimination, the results are similar, however, here the discrimination effects are somewhat larger,” he told The Local. 

Having a high economic status profession tended to cancel out the negative effects of having an Arabic name. 

“The discrimination effects are substantially important, as they could potentially indirectly influence parents’ school choice decision,” Taghizadeh said.

Investigating socioeconomic discrimination is also important in itself, as discrimination is seldom studied and as explicit discrimination legislation that bans class-based discrimination is rare in Western countries including Sweden, in contrast to laws against ethnic discrimination.”