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EDUCATION

Parent anger as international school in Malmö slashes teaching hours

Malmö's oldest international school has slashed teaching hours by as much as a third for some subjects and certain year groups in the face of growing financial problems and a dramatic reduction in teaching staff.

Parent anger as international school in Malmö slashes teaching hours
Bladins International is a popular choice for international families. Photo: Google
Alex Rankin, the school's headteacher, told The Local the cuts in teaching hours were unavoidable given the school's financial difficulties. 
 
“The school has seen ongoing budgetary shortfalls for a number of years. BSIM [Bladins International School of Malmö] has previously delivered significantly more hours to our students than required,” he said in a written statement. 
 
“[The cuts are] necessary in order to ensure a long-term sustainable economy for the school while maintaining and further developing the quality of our IB education.”
 
 
Timetables obtained by The Local for three grades of pupils aged 12-15 (MYP1, MYP2 and MYP3) showed that the students could expect just two hours a week of teaching for Science, Swedish, English, Maths, and Modern Languages. 
 
Their day now ends at 3pm on some days, compared to around 4pm or even 5pm previously, and the timetable has been filled in with two hours a week each of “Study” and “Core”, when  students will sit in a classroom studying by themselves, supervised by an adult but not taught by a trained teacher. 
 
“Teachers are aghast,” a former teacher at the school told The Local. “They can't do their jobs correctly with no time. The kids will have huge gaps in the schedule… if it is ever finished. Some teachers have responsibility of teaching (and therefore grading) over 150 students in a week.” 
 
Another former teacher said that she had previously had four hours a week to teach each class their subject, and questioned whether it would be possible to get through the curriculum with half the previous teaching hours. 
 
“You can see why it's made teachers so unhappy,” she told The Local. “How are we supposed to give these students what they need if the number of hours has been cut in half, or even more?” 
 
 
A parent at the school said that even at the start of school last Thursday, parents had still not been provided with up-to-date timetables for the year on the Schoolsoft system, an administrative web-based app where children, teachers and parents can log in and keep track of schedules and other information.

 
“There were still classes on her schedule that were actually from last year,” she complained. 
 
“A lot of the parents are frustrated or angry,” she added. “I don't think they're being very transparent, they're saying things are going to change, but it feels like we're not really informed of what some of the changes are going to be until the last minute.” 
 

New school director Magnus Wahlberg announced plans to make 20 teachers redundant in April, citing a serious budget crisis. 
 
But several more teachers got jobs at other schools or resigned in anger at the new system, meaning that this summer, at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, around 30 teachers and teaching assistants left the school, two sources told The Local.
 
Several teachers have since been rehired and Rankin said that 17 teachers had now left the school, and three new teachers had been hired, of whom two are covering for teachers on parental or study leave. 
 
He said that nine other staff who were either teaching assistants, after school activities personnel or administrative staff had also left, of whom four had been replaced. 
 
Bladins International School has long been dogged by financial issues, with many parents of children at the international school unhappy at the diversion of fees and government subsidies to Bladins Gymnasium and Bladins Grundskola, two charter schools operating in the Swedish system. 
 
 
The new timetable provides fewer teaching hours than recommended by the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) for this age group, but Rankin stressed that the school was not bound by Skolverket's requirements. 
 
“As an IB school, Skolverket gives no recommendations with regards to teaching hours per week. These recommendations are for Swedish curriculum schools,” he said. 
 
He said he was confident the school could meet the requirements of the International Baccalaureate Organisation. 
 
“Each subject has requirements that we should meet, which we still do given this reduction in hours,” he said. “We are aware of the requirements set by the IB and have the competence to create a curriculum which allows our students to reach their goals, and prepares them well for their further studies, even with a decrease in teacher-led hours.” 
 
He also argued that research indicated that the amount of teaching time was not as important as might be imagined. 
 
“Established international school research shows that one of the key factors with regards to students meeting their learning goals is the quality, structure and delivery of the content during the lesson, not the amount of teaching time.”  
 
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*This article has been amended to state that the cuts to school timetables for certain year groups amounted to around one third rather than half as originally stated.

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EDUCATION

‘They feel conned’: Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules

Sweden's top universities are to call for doctoral students to be exempted from Sweden's tough new permanent residency rules, arguing that it will damage both academic standards and national competitiveness.

'They feel conned': Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules
At Lund Technical University, a majority of doctoral students are international. Photo: Kennet Ruona/LTU

In a post on Wednesday, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, the chair of Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions, said that Sweden’s universities had agreed to submit a joint letter to the government “very soon”, calling for parliament to put in place a special exemption for PHD students to make it easier to stay in Sweden after their studies. 

The parliament, she wrote, “should introduce an exemption for doctoral students and young researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient”. 

Previously, doctoral students were eligible for a permanent residence permit if they had lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral studies for four out of the past seven years. Apart from a slim set of requirements, this was granted more or less automatically.

But according to Sweden’s new Migration Act, which was introduced in July this year as comprehensive legislation to control the number of asylum applications, they now need to be able to additionally show that they can support themselves financially for at least a year and half.

The new law means that the rules for permanent residency are now the same for all categories of applicants, including doctoral students.

Stefan Bengtsson, the rector at Chalmers University of Technology, said that the change would mean as many as 400 to 500 doctoral students, many of whom have built up considerable expertise, might be unable to stay in Sweden.

“This makes for an uncertain future for those from outside of Europe who have applied to come to Sweden for an academic career, which is cause for great concern and disappointment among those who came here under other circumstances,” he told The Local. “Some of them may, of course, feel like they’ve been conned

But what was even more worrying, he said, would be the impact the change to the law might have in the longer term. 

“This change to the law could contribute to giving Sweden a bad reputation. This will create difficulties in recruiting internationally and damage our long-term skills supply.”

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At Lund University, the majority of doctoral students in the science and technical faculties are from outside Europe, while Söderbergh Widding, who is also vice chancellor at Stockholm University, estimated that about half of doctoral students were international. 

Söderbergh Widding told the TT newswire that the change was “a devastating death blow”, which put to waste a “previously hard-won battle to make it possible for doctoral students to obtain a permanent residency permit after four years of studies”. 

She said in her letter that the change contradicted the research policy proposition from December 2020, which stated that the “number of foreign doctoral students who stay in Sweden should increase”, and said that giving residency to doctoral students was a good way to increase this.  

Ole Petter Ottersen, the rector of the elite Karolinska medical university, told the newswire that he thought the change in residency laws would damage Swedish competitiveness. 

“This is not good for Sweden. This will damage our ability to attract and recruit talent from other countries. For a country that lies on the periphery, the goal should be to make it easier, not harder, to recruit competence.” 

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