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EDUCATION

Lund English school rapped for ignoring law

An English-language school in Lund described as "the only choice for international kids" has been threatened with a fine of 400,000 kronor ($60,568) for ignoring the Swedish curriculum despite warnings in 2008.

Lund English school rapped for ignoring law

The municipality will be held responsible following the review by the country’s school inspectorate (Skolinspektionen), which on Sunday stated that if the school was not brought into line it faced the hefty fine. The report reviewed a recent investigation into The International School of Lund – Katedralskolan (ISLK) in southern Sweden.

When its students reached 16 and were ready to move on to high school (gymnasium), they could be missing out on opportunities enjoyed by other students around the country whose schools followed the Swedish school law, the review noted.

Some parents have long been angered by the school’s behaviour.

“Unfortunately, and I speak on behalf of all parents, we are like captives here,” explained one anonymous parent to The Local.”A lot of the families with children there don’t have a choice. There’s no other option for international families.”

The school has been run by the City of Lund since 2006 and does not follow the Swedish curriculum, instead following the primary and middle school programmes set up by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO).

Inspectors said on Sunday that the school failed in many of its obligations set out by law, and that many of the points had been brought up with them almost five years ago.

For example, in 2008 the inspectorate had pointed out that the school did not teach the children woodwork, sewing, or home economics, which is mandatory in Swedish schools but not part of the IBO’s PYP and MYP programmes.

The teachers were also found to use exclusively the grading system set out by the international organization, instead of Swedish standards.

The inspector clearly understood that keeping to the foreign system made it easier for children whose parents move around a lot internationally to pass from one school to another with grades easily interpreted in the new place. Yet such reasoning was not grounds for disregarding Swedish law, the report underlined.

The lengthy report also said it was clear that the school only focused on making sure it was in line with the foreign system’s regulations, and not its compliance with Swedish rules.

They further slammed the school for not offering German as a third language in the school, instead only offering French and Spanish. The IB system is constructed around English, French and Spanish, but German is still a key language taught in Swedish schools.

“The fact that the school was fined brings no surprises to me,” the anonymous parent said.

“A lot of us have been calling for change over the years, but it has always felt like we were met with a wall of arrogance and incompetence,” the parent said. The parent hastened to add that the critique was not aimed at the teachers, rather at the management.

The Education Ministry will now look into the report and aims to publish a report by the end of the month.

The school’s principal Ulrika Wiman told The Local that the issue was one for the Lund Municipality and politicians to handle. She declined to comment until the ministry’s report is published.

The school itself must ensure it abides by Swedish law before August this year if the fine is to be avoided.

“It is of course our responsibility to abide the law,” said Louise Rehn Winsborg, chair of the Education Committee of the City of Lund, in a statement. “But we would like to await the results of the investigation. This question has been raised by us already in 2009 and has been on-going since.”

Oliver Gee

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EDUCATION

‘They feel conned’: Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules

Sweden's top universities are to call for doctoral students to be exempted from Sweden's tough new permanent residency rules, arguing that it will damage both academic standards and national competitiveness.

'They feel conned': Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules
At Lund Technical University, a majority of doctoral students are international. Photo: Kennet Ruona/LTU

In a post on Wednesday, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, the chair of Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions, said that Sweden’s universities had agreed to submit a joint letter to the government “very soon”, calling for parliament to put in place a special exemption for PHD students to make it easier to stay in Sweden after their studies. 

The parliament, she wrote, “should introduce an exemption for doctoral students and young researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient”. 

Previously, doctoral students were eligible for a permanent residence permit if they had lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral studies for four out of the past seven years. Apart from a slim set of requirements, this was granted more or less automatically.

But according to Sweden’s new Migration Act, which was introduced in July this year as comprehensive legislation to control the number of asylum applications, they now need to be able to additionally show that they can support themselves financially for at least a year and half.

The new law means that the rules for permanent residency are now the same for all categories of applicants, including doctoral students.

Stefan Bengtsson, the rector at Chalmers University of Technology, said that the change would mean as many as 400 to 500 doctoral students, many of whom have built up considerable expertise, might be unable to stay in Sweden.

“This makes for an uncertain future for those from outside of Europe who have applied to come to Sweden for an academic career, which is cause for great concern and disappointment among those who came here under other circumstances,” he told The Local. “Some of them may, of course, feel like they’ve been conned

But what was even more worrying, he said, would be the impact the change to the law might have in the longer term. 

“This change to the law could contribute to giving Sweden a bad reputation. This will create difficulties in recruiting internationally and damage our long-term skills supply.”

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At Lund University, the majority of doctoral students in the science and technical faculties are from outside Europe, while Söderbergh Widding, who is also vice chancellor at Stockholm University, estimated that about half of doctoral students were international. 

Söderbergh Widding told the TT newswire that the change was “a devastating death blow”, which put to waste a “previously hard-won battle to make it possible for doctoral students to obtain a permanent residency permit after four years of studies”. 

She said in her letter that the change contradicted the research policy proposition from December 2020, which stated that the “number of foreign doctoral students who stay in Sweden should increase”, and said that giving residency to doctoral students was a good way to increase this.  

Ole Petter Ottersen, the rector of the elite Karolinska medical university, told the newswire that he thought the change in residency laws would damage Swedish competitiveness. 

“This is not good for Sweden. This will damage our ability to attract and recruit talent from other countries. For a country that lies on the periphery, the goal should be to make it easier, not harder, to recruit competence.” 

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