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SWEDEN'S FAILING SCHOOLS

OECD

Teacher salaries too low in Sweden: OECD

Teacher salaries in Sweden are lower than in countries with higher–performing schools, according to an extra OECD evaluation requested by the government on the heels of Sweden's dismal performance in the latest Pisa rankings.

Teacher salaries too low in Sweden: OECD
Swedish students are less inclined to see their own role in increasing performance, the OECD report found. File photo: Katarzyna Korza/TT

"The quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of its teachers," Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's Deputy Director of Education and Skills, told reporters at a press briefing in Stockholm on Tuesday.

"In higher-performing countries, teachers have higher salaries but also clear career possibilities."

The analysis, which marks the first time ever that Sweden has asked the OECD for extra help in evaluating its school system, also found that Sweden has relatively high costs per student, with only nine other OECD countries spending more money per pupil.

Overall, Sweden spends an average of $95,831 per student from age 6 to 15, a level higher than Finland, but below Denmark and Norway. However, the OECD report said that there is "no clear relationship between spending on education and performance" once a country spends more than $50,000 per student.

Returning to the theme of teachers, Schleicher emphasized their importance to having a strong education system. He explained that raising the status of the teaching profession and creating clear career-advancement opportunities requires a dependable system for evaluating performance.

"High performing education systems typically prioritize the quality of teachers, and everything associated with this salaries, and professional evaluation, over class size," he said.

"Clear evaluation, robust evaluation — telling people the truth. That’s a simple thing to do."

More broadly, there needs to be a perception in society that education is important and high expectations should be placed on students to perform well in the classroom.

"High performing systems show a very strong commitment to universal achievement," said Schleicher, bringing Finland as an example.

"One of the big differences between the two countries is the level of aspirations, the level of expectations placed on every student."

Compared to Sweden, students in Finland are expected to do well, regardless of their background.

"There's no tolerance for failure in the system," he added, explaining the Finnish system makes it clear who is responsible to whom.

In Sweden, on the other hand, students tend to say performance is a question of talent, luck, and materials rather than their own individual efforts.

The OECD's supplemental analysis also criticized Sweden's preference for project-based learning in the classroom, saying it puts too much of the burden of learning on the shoulders of students. In more high-performing country like South Korea, teaching is viewed "as a science".

"They are not letting students find their own ways to learn," said Schleicher.

"Professionals collaborate to see how we teach certain things best. And what may look like ‘traditional’ learning may in fact be highly, highly effective. It may look traditional but actually it's quite well aligned with what modern research tells us about effective teaching practice."

The report was put together at the request of the Swedish government after Sweden's schools' performance had fallen below the OECD average in reading, maths, and science in the international Pisa comparison released in December.
 

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SCHOOLS

Sweden encouraged to improve integration in schools

Sweden can do much more to help immigrant children perform better at school, a new OECD report says.

Sweden encouraged to improve integration in schools
File photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT
The report, carried out by OECD at the request of the Swedish government, suggested that Sweden’s integration efforts have strained under the weight of the large number of migrants who have entered the country in recent years. 
 
“Within OECD countries, Sweden has historically welcomed large numbers of migrants, in particular migrants seeking humanitarian protection,” the report reads. “Since 2015, this large influx of new arrivals with multiple disadvantages has put a well-developed integration system under great pressure.”
 
The study notes that 61 percent of first-generation immigrant students do “not attain baseline academic proficiency”. The number decreases to 43 percent for second-generation immigrant students and that 19 percent differential is well above the OECD average of 11 percents. 
 
The report gave 20 recommendations for how Sweden can improve the situation, including taking steps to counteract the negative impact that the free choice of schools can have on integration. The group suggests giving the children of immigrants more opportunities to choose the school they want to attend, as well as introducing special quotas for socio-economically disadvantaged students, issuing grants for these students and incentivizing independent schools to take on new pupils. 
 
 
The OECD also suggested that Swedish authorities examine how other countries tackle the problems of integration, pointing to countries like Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States as good examples. 
 
The report also emphasized the importance of including multicultural awareness in the curriculum of schools across Sweden, so that students are exposed to “positive messages” regardless of their origins, according to a government press release
 
“The OECD has done a thorough job on this report. It’s good to be assured that we are on the right track. At the same time, the OECD has confirmed my view that Sweden should do more to mix students from different backgrounds,” Education Minister Anna Ekström said in the press release. 
 
Among other suggestions are hiring more teachers, increasing educators’ salaries and incentivizing teachers to take jobs at the schools that need the most help. The 146-page report can be found here
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