Sweden invests in education comeback

Nieuws | de redactie
30 september 2011 | Swedish government wants to invest SEK7 billion (€756m) to reform its education system. Primary target will be teacher training with a focus on mathematics as well as study success rates in social sciences and humanities.

Fixating these substantial investments in the annual budget,Fredrik Reinfeldt (Sweden’s Prime Minister) lived up to his promiseto boost education. Over the past couple of year’s concerns wereraised in his country whether Sweden could still keep up with otherScandinavian countries in terms of education.

Especially, the OECD PISA (Programme for International StudentAssessment) rankings showed a steady decline in knowledge ofSwedish pupils. This came as a big surprise given that expenditureson education and research are with 4% of its GNP among the highestin the world.

Deterioration in teacher quality

The main reason for this decline in performance was attributedto a continuous deterioration in teacher quality. “Some decadesago, top echelons of the cohorts of young people were seeking acareer as a teacher. This is no longer the case. Recent surveysshow that those candidates accepted at teacher training collegesand universities, have significantly lower grades compared to 20years ago,” commented Jan Bjørklund, Minister of Education andResearch.

This is why the Swedish government intends to build ‘careerstairways’ which give financial incentives to teachers who continuefurther qualifying themselves, especially in the field ofmathematics. To boost the mathematics proficiency of pupils ingeneral, more lessons in this field will become mandatory inschools.

Model – Merkel/Schavan?

Further focus of the new budget lies on the creation of 400additional student places for civil engineering. Jan Bjørklundcommented: “I want Sweden to be an advanced industrial nationduring the 21st century as we were during the 20th century. Tosucceed with this aim, we have to educate clever engineers.”

The new Swedish policy of investing into education with aparticular emphasis on engineering strikes one as rather familiar.German chancellor Angela Merkel and her Minister of Research andEducation, Anette Schavan, established several initiatives (e.g.Exzellenzinitiative) during and even before the financial crisis toboost education. Similar to Sweden, main concern of Germany wasthat it constantly underperformed in international comparativetests such as PISA.

Interested in reading more about how Germany invested intoeducation after the crisis? Click here (in Dutch)

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