Wanted: Men to work in Swedish preschools

Wanted: Men to work in Swedish preschools
The lack of men working in Sweden's preschools is cause for concern, according to Equality Minister Maria Arnholm, who has said she's open to altering employment rules to make it easier for men to enter the education field.

“I’m thinking about a national strategy increase the percentage of men in preschools,” Arnholm told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, adding she hoped the government could partner with universities and municipalities to address the problem.

Currently, women represent 96.5 percent of those employed in Sweden’s preschools, a figure Arnholm would like to see changed.

She pointed to Norway, where the percentage of men working in preschools is twice as high as in Sweden, as a role model.

“In Sweden, we haven’t worked as conscientiously and most of all not nearly as persistently as in Norway,” Arnholm said

Specific measures under consideration by the minister include changing existing rules to make it easier for men to get internships and work experience opportunities in preschools where there is a gender imbalance.

However, the head of the National Union of Teachers (Lärarnas Riksförbund), Metta Fjelkner, criticized the minister for putting too much focus on preschools, explaining that a lack of men is something that affects Swedish primary and secondary schools as well.

“She’s too limited in her approach, she should look at the entire teaching profession. Among our 90,000 members, the percentage of men is shrinking dramatically,” Fjelkner told the TT news agency.

“The problem is that men are leaving the profession. Men aren’t leaving preschools, they’ve never been there.”

However, Fjelkner welcomed Arnholm’s suggestion of a national strategy to entice more men to enter the teaching profession in Sweden.

“But I can say that salaries and employment conditions are the deciding factors. It’s about what we pay for good teachers and preschool teachers,” she said.

TT/The Local/dl

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