A personal goal for every Swedish pupil

Nieuws | de redactie
7 maart 2013 | Frontrunner Sweden has implemented some cutting edge reforms in their school system. Swedish Ambassador Håkan Emsgård explains the ‘goal-based-system’ and the specifics of financing schools, leaving the pupils free to choose.

“Since 2006 our government has made the reform of the Swedish school system a top priority”, Emsgård explains. “We introduced a goal based school system. This makes it clearer what you want to achieve. Moreover we continually evaluate the system.”

Interestingly Swedish schools formulate goals on an individual level. Emsgård: “In the previous system you compare the pupils toe each other, now we differentiate their goals. One pupil has to reach goals A and B to reach a certain level. The progress is measured according to each pupil’s individual goal.”

“In the beginning this system had its difficulties. Parents for instance often compare it to the school system of their time. It takes a while to introduce it, but in the long run the goal based system facilitates communication.”

Danger of underestimating

Sweden let go of a system that compares children’s results to each other, but how do teachers avoid the pitfall of underestimating the capacity of pupils, for instance of those coming from less favourable backgrounds? Ambassador Emsgård answers: “Of course when you have a school in a city with many migrants you run the danger of lowering your standards.”

The Swedish correction for this works in two directions: “The government is putting extra effort and resources into upholding standards in these underprivileged areas. On the other hand every parent has the possibility to put his or her child in another school, the money is allocated to the child and follows the pupil if schools are changed. Many parents actually do change schools.”

Emsgård continues: “Some 30 years ago we had only public schools, now we have schools run by non-profit organizations, by private companies. Anyone can found a school, on the condition that they follow the Swedish curriculum of course.”

Teamwork gaining ground

While in some countries the teacher is still the lonesome ruler in the classroom, the Swedish trend of the last couple of years has been that teachers more and more work as teams. Emsgård: “Furthermore it’s a new development that senior teachers support junior teachers, a specific kind of peer review.”

It is not something particularly Swedish, Ambassador Emsgård thinks. “Many professions nowadays lack the hierarchical structure of the past. It’s the same in schools: teamwork is now the standard and it is much appreciated by the staff.”

Unlike in many other countries, Sweden doesn’t have minimum salaries for teachers. “The national government doesn’t intervene in the labour market”, Emsgård explains. “The salaries are usually the result of bargaining. It’s a model that we believe has served us well, we are not likely to adapt it to other systems of wage setting in the EU.”

A national responsibility?

Interestingly the schools in Sweden fall under the responsibility of the municipalities. “There is a discussion about transferring that authority to the national government, teachers would like to see this happening as they think it would increase their status”, Emsgård says. “Right now the government cannot order the municipalities to raise the salaries.”

What has been changed with the current centre-right coalition government is that the remuneration system is no longer liked to seniority. Emsgård: “The salary system is now linked to performance. Hopefully this will also help boosting the status of the teaching profession. You already see some results, although it will take many years. It is terribly important that in today’s knowledge based economies, teachers are of the best quality.”





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