Education minister picks ‘decorum commissioner’

Education minister picks 'decorum commissioner'
Swedish pupils. File photo: TT
Sweden's education minister on Tuesday said parents had to stop blaming teachers for their children's behaviour, and appointed a commission to get to grips with decorum.

At a press conference in Stockholm on Tuesday, Jan Björklund announced that he had appointed Metta Fjelkner, former chairwoman of the Teachers National Association (Lärarnas riksförbunds) to head a commission looking into how to improve Swedish schools. 

"If you can give teachers the chance to be teacher, then there's hope," said Fjelkner, who will present her findings by July 31st.

She will look into how the new Swedish school law has affected teachers and pupils, but she will also look at how to strengthen discipline and order as well as get to grips with truancy in Swedish class rooms. 

The education minister put part of the blame on the parents, but also said principals and other adults in the children's lives had a responsibility. Björklund added that teachers could not by themselves make all the difference. 

"If a teacher tries to create order in the classroom, I far too often feel that parents take the side of the students," he said. "Instead of being grateful to the teacher for getting in touch and telling them that Charlie has done this and that, the parents bark at the teacher."

Björklund also said that some school principals were afraid of negative publicity, and would rather smooth a situation over than get to grips with it.

"Some principals might fear that the school will get a bad reputation and end up in the newspaper, and don't support their teachers," he said.  

The government had decided to appoint the commission after Pisa found that the atmosphere in the Swedish classroom was worse than in the other OECD countries.

The data used by Pisa (Programme for international student assessment), looked at the number of students who disrupt teaching, how much discord there is, and finally how much time it takes the teacher to begin the class. Swedish state agencies that monitor the quality of teaching have also said there is a lack of discipline and order in the schools. 

Björklund has asked Fjelkner to look at both primary and secondary school. He said that while lack of order was most commonly associated with middle and high schools, he felt the problems now begin even earlier

“There is also a perception that there is a shift downwards," Björklund told reporters. 

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