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SWEDEN SLIDES IN PISA RATING

EDUCATION

‘Sweden is letting its school boys down’

Scientists in Sweden have reacted to the country's slide in global education ranking Pisa, pointing out that Swedish boys are now under-performing not only their female peers, but are less apt than male teens in other OECD countries.

'Sweden is letting its school boys down'
Swedish teen girls now outperform boys in all three Pisa categories.

"We're seeing a societal betrayal of boys," Swedish brain researcher Martin Ingvar told the TT news agency on Wednesday.

While Swedish boys and girls scored roughly the same in the latest Pisa ranking for maths, girls have now sped past the boys in natural sciences. Girls also continue to outperform boys in reading, and the gap between the two genders has widened since the Pisa review published in the year 2000. 

"All school systems that perform badly punish pupils who have the hardest time," Ingvar said. "The Swedish school is organized for pupil-led learning, (which benefits) high-performing middle-class girls." 

Education Minister Jan Björklund touched on the difference between girls' and boys' maturity levels as he met the press on Tuesday following the unveiling of the OECD's latest Pisa report. He said that boys were often less mature than girls, who had an advantage when it came to independent study. Brain scientist Ingvar agreed, claiming that boys trail girls in maturity by up to one year. 

The average gap between boys and girls among OECD countries was 38 points in the Pisa test which looks at 15-year-olds across several countries. In Sweden, this figure widened to 51 points. And while boys generally outperformed girls in maths and natural sciences in the OECD nations, the trend was inverse in Sweden. 

"It is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with the children, the fault lies with the grown ups," brain researcher Ingvar said.

He took a different view on issuing grades to younger pupils than the government, which has touted grades in third grade as one of the cornerstones of a wide-range of education reforms launched two years ago. Instead, Ingvar argued, it was important for teachers to make the boys understand the importance of education. 

"Grades are trivial compared to feedback in the classroom," he said. 

Girls' ability to dedicate themselves to their studies without adult input was also noted in a 2010 report entitled "Gender difference in school performance". 

University West professor Inga Wernersson said the girls not only spend more time on their studies than boys, but do so "more systematically and more effectively". 

"Those who belong to the smarter group can't pretend they need to make an effort," she commented on the boys' behaviour. "Girls have no reason to assume that they'd get good results without putting the effort in." 

Education officials said they were nonplussed when it came to explaining the gap.

"We don't really have a good explanation," said Anita Wester, spokeswoman at the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket). 

The latest edition of the Pisa test for the first time included digital tests for the maths and reading components. The boys got better results in the digital rather than the analog exams.

"In 2015, the entire test will be digital for those countries that have access to the technology," Wester noted. "It will be interesting to see what effect that has on the results." 

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HEALTH

Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime 

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