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CONGRESS

Social Democrats want compulsory preschools and high schools

Social Democrat congress delegates have supported the party's proposal to introduce compulsory preschools for children from the age of two and to make high school mandatory.

Social Democrats want compulsory preschools and high schools

As soon as the economy improves, steps should be taken to ensure that all municipalities in Sweden offer free preschool places for all toddlers, regardless if their parents or legal guardians are gainfully employed, unemployed or on parental leave, the congress established.

The party also wants to scrap the childcare allowance for parents or guardians of preschool-age children.

Further, the Social Democrats want to make high school (gymnasium) attendance compulsory. Swedish high school corresponds to grades 10 to 12 and is currently not mandatory.

The aim is to ensure that all Swedes have a complete high school degree before the age of 25.

According to the Social Democrats, by 2020, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds without high school degrees should be halved and 50 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds should have completed at least two years of higher education.

To achieve this, the Social Democrats want to increase the number of higher education places and to reintroduce work experience as a valid merit for university applicants. The party also wants to review the age limit for claiming student loans.

In his speech at the congress, Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, head of Sweden’s Trade Union Confederation (LO), outlined several measures to reduce unemployment, including investing in vocational courses and increasing housing construction.

If housing construction increased at a proper rate it could lead to the creation of 35,000 new jobs, said Thorwaldsson.

Earlier, the congress also determined that the municipalities should have “decisive impact” when it comes to establishing privately-run, publicly-funded free schools (friskolor).

However, the National Free School Committee (Friskolekommittén) said it would be difficult to reach an agreement on this across the right and left blocks.

The head of the Free School Committee, Lars Leijonborg, told Sveriges Radio (SR) that the Social Democrats’ decision is practically a veto which renders any cross-party deal on the future of free schools impossible.

The committee was close to a deal, said Leijonborg, with six parties ready to reach an agreement.

But Social Democrat education policy spokesman Ibrahim Baylan dismissed claims that the Social Democrats were vetoing a deal, saying he would not be surprised if the Committee used this as a “pretext” for failing to reach a decision.

“The really big problem with the Free School Committee has been that we haven’t really known what the centre-right government’s premise has been,” Baylan told SR.

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SCHOOL

Sweden must discuss banning religious schools: minister

Sweden needs to discuss whether to ban religious schools amid reports that some schools are segregating boys and girls, Minister for Upper Secondary School Aida Hadzialic has argued.

Sweden must discuss banning religious schools: minister
Aida Hadzialic. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

The minister is calling for multi-party talks in parliament to discuss how to “really guarantee that school classes are free from religious elements”, she said in an interview with newspaper Aftonbladet. 

“The schools law stipulates that school tuition must be secular, but we are receiving worrying signals that this is not the case, that girls and boys are being taught separately. We can’t have it like that,” said Hadzialic. 

The minister said she would push for change in parliament this autumn after the education ministry was informed of schools separating boys and girls. 

“Swedish schools should be for everybody, they should break down segregation and form the basis for Sweden to stay strong.” 

Sweden's free school system of state-funded but privately run schools was introduced in 1992 and paved the way for religious organisations to operate schools as long as they stuck to the secular Swedish curriculum.

Aida Hadzialic, a 29-year-old born in Bosnia-Hertzagovina, was relatively new to politics when Prime Minister Stefan Löfven named her in his cabinet in 2014. She worked as a lawyer until 2010. 

SEE ALSO: Sweden tries to rein in religion at free schools