Sweden has a reputation for being a leading nation in the tech industry, but rather than resting on its laurels, the plan is for kids to be exposed to the nuts and bolts of technology at an earlier age, according to education minister Gustav Fridolin.
“This means Sweden is taking the kind of approach we should have. Sweden should be a country where every kid in school is prepared for working life, and knowledge of programming needs to start early,” he told The Local.
The changes to the curriculum will apply from July 2018 at the latest. Fridolin added that the skills will not only be useful for those children who go on to have careers in programming, but also elsewhere, as more jobs require competence with computers in the future.
“We know that businesses are searching high and low for programmers and more are needed in Sweden. It's also the case that more jobs will require competence in programming, so it’s not just about having more programmers, but also that more feel well prepared for other jobs where programming will be important.”
Along with programming, the moves to improve digital competence will also include teaching kids how to differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources, a subject that has been particularly hot in Sweden as of late, with everyone from comic book hero Bamse to the King emphasizing the importance of source criticism.
“There has been some naivety when it comes to the information society. An idea that all knowledge is just a short click away and we don't need to know as much as we needed to before,” Fridolin explained.
“It's the exact opposite: we need basic knowledge in reading, writing and numeracy so we can’t be tricked, but we also need to advance our criticism of sources to the same level as we previously taught students about scientific theory for example. You already need to have your first taste of this today at about the age of ten.”
A multitude of sources is a reality of the modern digital age, the education minister added, so it is important to prepare kids to identify trustworthy outlets.
“You need to know what you can trust, what the difference between a serious media outlet and a propaganda site is. And how certain can you be that your image of the truth is formed from facts, and not someone who wants you to think about things in a certain way?”
A recent survey by pollsters Ipsos showed that eight out of ten Swedes think so-called fake news is having an impact on their perception of basic facts, and that most Swedes see news articles they don’t believe to be entirely true on a weekly basis.