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SCHOOLS

Malmö schools seeing rapid improvement

Malmö’s primary schools have jumped more than 70 places in a ranking of Sweden’s 290 municipalities by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions.

Malmö schools seeing rapid improvement
Jonas Ekströmer/TT
In 2011, Malmö's primary schools, which cater to children between six and 16 years old, were among the worst in Sweden, coming 270th out of the country's 290 municipalities. This year they jumped from 201st place to 127th place, judged by the number of pupils that reach the required standard in all subjects. 
 
Malmö still lies far behind the wealthy next-door municipality of Vellinge, which topped the ranking, however. 
 
“I’m happy we are moving forward again in this ranking,” Anders Rubin, the city’s mayor for schools, told The Local. “We are now one of the biggest school organizations in Sweden, so have all the muscles we need to support our schools.” 
 
 
Rubin put the improvement down to the city's decision to centralize its schools, taking them out of the hands of local districts, increased spending, and instituting a schools improvement philosophy developed in Ontario.
 
In the decade up to 2014, the Canadian province saw the percentage of students meeting numeracy and literacy standards rise from 54 percent to 71 percent while high school graduation rates increased from 68 to 83 percent. 
 
“We don’t copy them because Sweden isn’t Canada, but we try to learn from them,” Rubin said of Ontario's impressive record. “They took about 25 years, and we have done just eight years. So we are just at the beginning.” 
 
He said one of the lessons from Canada was for politicians to keep their “itchy fingers” under control and limit the number of new policies and ideas they impose on schools. 
 
“We try to help our schools really focus on school development, and from a political point of view, one of the important things is to make sure that we don’t interfere in a bad way,” Rubin said. “We have told them [headteachers], 'We will never interfere in any of the decisions you make, but we will ask for results'.”
 
He said Malmö Municipality saw its primary roles as making sure enough money was available for schools, ensuring that headteachers were competent, and collecting and sharing information on best practices. 
 
Right now, he said, the municipality was working hard to address a teacher shortage by trying to recruit in countries such as Greece and Finland, training up teachers who have come to Sweden as refugees, and trying to lure graduates from other professions. 
 
“More money would be nice, but we have a lack of what we want to buy,” he said. “We need to buy good, educated teachers, and there aren’t enough of them.” 
 
Rubin will leave his position in 14 days when the mayor for schools position is handed over to the Liberal Party, which is joining the Social Democrats in a new coalition government

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DISCRIMINATION

Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

Parents with Arabic-sounding names get a less friendly response and less help when choosing schools in Sweden, according to a new study from the University of Uppsala.

Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

In one of the largest discrimination experiments ever carried out in the country, 3,430 primary schools were contacted via email by a false parent who wanted to know more about the school. The parent left information about their name and profession.

In the email, the false parent stated that they were interested in placing their child at the school, and questions were asked about the school’s profile, queue length, and how the application process worked. The parent was either low-educated (nursing assistant) or highly educated (dentist). Some parents gave Swedish names and others gave “Arabic-sounding” names.

The report’s author, Jonas Larsson Taghizadeh said that the study had demonstrated “relatively large and statistically significant negative effects” for the fictional Arabic parents. 

“Our results show that responses to emails signed with Arabic names from school principals are less friendly, are less likely to indicate that there are open slots, and are less likely to contain positive information about the school,” he told The Local. 

READ ALSO: Men with foreign names face job discrimination in Sweden: study

The email responses received by the fictional Arabic parents were rated five percent less friendly than those received by the fictional Swedish parents, schools were 3.2 percentage points less likely to tell Arabic parents that there were open slots at the school, and were 3.9 percentage points less likely to include positive information about the municipality or the school. 

There was no statistically significant difference in the response rate and number of questions answered by schools to Swedish or Arabic-sounding parents. 

Taghizadeh said that there was more discrimination against those with a low social-economic status job than against those with an Arabic name, with the worst affected group being those who combined the two. 

“For socioeconomic discrimination, the results are similar, however, here the discrimination effects are somewhat larger,” he told The Local. 

Having a high economic status profession tended to cancel out the negative effects of having an Arabic name. 

“The discrimination effects are substantially important, as they could potentially indirectly influence parents’ school choice decision,” Taghizadeh said.

Investigating socioeconomic discrimination is also important in itself, as discrimination is seldom studied and as explicit discrimination legislation that bans class-based discrimination is rare in Western countries including Sweden, in contrast to laws against ethnic discrimination.” 

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