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Do Swedish children get too much holiday?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Do Swedish children get too much holiday?
Do you think Swedish schoolchildren should have a shorter summer holiday? Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Scanpix

Just as parents in Sweden are juggling returning to work with childcare, the opposition Centre Party has reawakened an old debate: are Sweden's school summer holidays too long?


How long are Sweden's holidays?

Pupils in Sweden have fewer school days than those of any other Scandinavian country, mainly because they have the longest summer holiday, enjoying between nine and ten weeks off in June, July and August every year.

This compares to eight weeks of summer holidays in Norway, and six in Denmark, Germany, and the UK.

Finland and Iceland both have 11-week summer holidays, while countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Italy have even longer summer breaks, enjoying up to 13 weeks off.  

What impact does Sweden's long summer holiday have on students? 

Quite a severe one, according to The battle for time – more time for teaching, a government inquiry which reported its conclusions back in 2021. 

The report cited research showing that students with less active parents, who are as a result "not stimulated" during the long summer break, "can fall as much as three months behind in their skills and knowledge".

"It appears that longer academic years, and thus more teaching time, could promote the learning and the wellbeing of all students and also contribute towards greater equity," the inquiry concluded, warning that Sweden's long summer holidays appeared to be "based more on tradition than on the latest research into student learning".

The report recommended that the government look into bringing in a three-term system like that in place in most other countries. 

The City of Malmö in 2019 proposed trialling a three-term year in some schools, arguing that children from immigrant backgrounds tended to see a sharp decline in their level of Swedish over the summer. 

"Some of them don't speak Swedish during their summer break and don't get to go on holiday but just sit at home and hang around," the city's education councillor Sarah Wettergren told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. 


The city's own inquiry found that the long summer holiday increased the educational disparity between those from different backgrounds. 

"Pupils from socio-economically weaker homes lose a lot of knowledge during the summer holidays and come back with an even worse starting point compared to their classmates from socio-economically stronger homes," it reported.  

Malmö's proposal was in the end blocked by Sweden's school law, which regulates how the school year is arranged. 

What has the Centre Party proposed? 

The opposition Centre Party, in a press release issued on Tuesday, proposed starting by reducing the summer holiday by two weeks, before looking at other possibilities. 

This would not only  benefit pupils, it argued, but also parents, who often struggle to combine work with childcare in the first three weeks of August. 

"This is a mathematical puzzle which its hard to make work out, especially if you are a single parent," the party's leader, Muharrem Demirok, said. "The summer also means that pupils in Sweden lose knowledge, particularly in their reading ability. This especially affects pupils who do not have Swedish as a mother language." 


What has the government said? 

Sweden's school minister Lotta Edholm immediately knocked back the Centre Party's proposal, saying that however desirable it may be, a shortage of teachers meant it was currently unrealistic. 

"I think it's quite simply not possible to have a shorter summer holiday in the current situation, when you look at the teacher shortages, for example, which we see in Swedish schools today," she said.  


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Stephan Crandall 2023/08/25 08:51
Our granddaughters live with us. We have a 9 week summer but it is 9 weeks of home school (becasue they get bored). Our eldest, 11 yrs, reads at a 12th grade level. If there were support system for learning Swedish she would be but instead she is learning French (oj).

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