Phones okay in Swedish classrooms: agency

There is no general rule prohibiting Swedish schoolchildren from using their mobile phones during lessons, an official from Sweden's National Education Agency said on Thursday.

Phones okay in Swedish classrooms: agency
Photo: wonderlane/Flickr
"There is nothing that forbids it as long as it doesn't disturb the lesson," Kjell Hedvall of Sweden's National Agency for Education (Skolverket) said during a discussion on Sveriges Television (SVT) about discipline in Swedish schools.
When the topic turned to mobile telephones in the class, Hedvall said there was nothing in his agency's rule book to say it was wrong, but added that "it can always be discussed whether it's appropriate or not".
The televised discussion also addressed other areas that can cause friction between teachers and students, with Hedvall arguing that students wearing winter jackets or hats in class shouldn't be an issue either.
While there may be no "general rule" stating that mobile phones are forbidden in classrooms, Skolverket press officer Mattias Ragert expanded on Hedvall's comments, telling The Local that the statement shouldn't be mean that students should assume it's acceptable to whip out their phones the moment lessons begin. 
"Every school has to make up its own set of rules, together with the teachers, students, principals – everyone," he told The Local. "Our agency doesn't think it's okay if students sit there playing, and if a school has rules against it then these should be followed." 
He added that many schools have their own rules set up for dealing with phones, with some institutions insisting that every student hands their phone to the teacher at the beginning of each lesson, only to get it returned at the end. 
"Of course, it's important that schools deal with phones. Students are there to learn, that's the point, and it's no good if the phones are disturbing the process," Ragert said.
The discussion took place in the context of an increasing difficulty on the part of teachers to maintain order in the classroom, with many reporting increased stress levels due to a classroom disturbances. The schools agency has recently developed a "staircase of measures" to help teachers in their attempts to keep unruly students in line.
The agency's rules stipulate that if a student is indeed disturbing the lesson, a teacher should ask them to stop, and can request the student leaves the room until the end of the lesson if more drastic action is required. A teacher can order the student to see the principal is the problem recurs.
The Education Act states that Swedish students should be educated in "a manner that ensures they have a safe and studious environment".

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Distance learning remains a ‘possibility’ for Swedish schools: Education minister

Remote learning remains a possibility, but not an obligation, for schools in Sweden as students around the country begin term this week, the Education Minister said on Wednesday.

Distance learning remains a 'possibility' for Swedish schools: Education minister
Education Minister Anna Ekström (L) and general director of the Schools Inspectorate, Helén Ängmo. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Minister Anna Ekström made the comments during a press conference in which she outlined the rules ahead of back-to-school season but did not make any new announcements.

She urged schools to be “flexible”, outlining some of the measures which have been recommended by the National Board of Education since an early stage in the pandemic.

This include changing furniture arrangements to promote distancing, staggering lesson and break times to prevent students mixing in large groups, and increasing cleaning. Many parent-teacher meetings are likely to be cancelled, she said.

Schools for under-16s have remained open throughout the pandemic, and Ekström said this decision was based on research showing children were affected by the virus to a lesser extent. “The younger the child, the more mild the symptoms,” she said.

In Sweden, only one of the almost 6,000 people to have died after testing positive for the coronavirus was aged under 10, and none of the victims have been in the 10-19 age group.

Ekström added that no occupational group linked to schools had been over-represented in Sweden's coronavirus statistics.

In addition to taking this kind of measures, heads of schools have also been given additional decision-making powers.

These include the ability to switch to remote learning, or make other changes such as adapting the timetable (including moving lessons to weekends) if necessary due to the infection situation. 

“If the situation gets worse, teaching can be moved partially or entirely to distance learning. This could happen in the whole country, individual schools, or in municipalities or regions where schools may need to close as a measure to prevent spread of infection,” Ekström said.

“The government is prepared to take measures, but we don't want to close schools.”