Compulsory Basic SchoolCompulsory education in Sweden takes the form of a nine year comprehensive school for children aged 7-16. However, since 1991 children have the right to begin the compulsory school at the age of six years, if their parents so desire and if the municipality has the capacity to provide this service. The option should be available in all municipalities in the school year 1997/98. In the school year 1992/93, 70 % of the municipalities were able to offer children the option of starting school at the age of six. In 1994, 7.5% of the pupils starting school that year were six years old or younger. The Government has had a special commissioner investigating the consequences of extending compulsory schooling to ten years. The commissioner's final report has been sent for review to the government agencies and municipalities concerned.
Compulsory elementary schooling was formally introduced in Sweden in 1842. A process of reform, destined to take many years, began in the 1940's with the aim of expanding compulsory schooling. The nine year compulsory comprehensive school was decided on by Parliament in 1962 and fully implemented in the schools, 1972-73. Today it is regulated by the Education Act of 1985 and amendments of 1991,1992,1993 and 1994 when a new national curriculum for compulsory basic shools came into operation.
The compulsory school system comprises compulsory basic school, Sami school for Sami-speaking children in the north of the country, specials schools for children with certain handicaps (for example, children with impaired hearing, vision and speech disabilities) and compulsory school for mentally handicapped.
Almost all pupils (over 98%) attend schools run by the municipalities, usually in their local area. The Education Act states, however, that parents and pupils should be able to make a choice concerning compulsory education. To the extent that it is possible, parents' wishes for their children to attend a particular public school within the municipality should be considered. Parents and pupils should also be free to choose between public and private schools. As from the school year 1993/94 a pupil can attend a public school outside the home municipality. The municipalities are obliged to provide pupils with all the materials necessary for school work. particular emphasis is put on textbooks, etc. covering essential parts of a specific subject or a group of subjects. All compulsory schooling is co-educational and provided free of charge. The school year is divided into two terms, comprising in total of 40 weeks with not less than 178 school days (Monday-Friday) and 12 weeks of holiday. The Autumn term lasts from the end of August to the end of December, the Spring term from the beginning of January to the beginning of June. The exact dates vary from year to year and from one municipality to another
Attendance is compulsory for maximum of 190 days per year and eight hours per day (six hours in the first years of school). Under certain circumstances however, pupils can be exempt from compulsory teaching. This applies, for example, to pupils belonging to a certain religious community, which is authorised by the Government to arrange instruction in religious studies corresponding to the instructions given in school.
There are both larger and smaller schools, the latter mainly in sparsely populated areas, where classes can be made up of pupils from two or three different grades. Upper level schools are normally larger, with 150-600 pupils and two, three or more classes per grade.
Pupils mostly attend the same school all the way through cumpulsory basic school. There are specially trained teachers for music and, very often, handicraft subjects, pictorial studies and physical education. In addition to class or subject teachers, remedial teachers and pupil welfare staff, e.g. a social welfare officer, psychologist and school nurse, can be attached to a working unit, set up by two classes or more. The staff making up every unit of this kind constitute a working team with the task of planning, developing and evaluating the work to be done - a process in which the pupils are also entitled to participate.
SystemThe alterations to the legislative framework for the school system that have taken effect in recent years have involved fundamental changes in the control and organisation of the schools, as well as in the conditions under which individual schools are able to operate. In December 1993, parliament adopted legislation laying down new curricular guidelines for the whole school system, geared to the new objective and result-related governing system for schools. As further described below, this is an extensive changes in the curriculum, syllabi and time-schedules as well and in the marking system of compulsory school. The new system was implemented in the 1995-96 school year for grades 1-7 of compulsory school, compulsory school for the mentally disabled and special school, and for the whole of Sami school. The reform will be fully implemented as of the 1997/98 school year.
CurriculumThe curriculum contains binding regulations for the school and thus steers its activity. The curriculum sets out the basic values of the school, its tasks and provides objectives and guidelines for the school. In the curriculum, emphasis is placed on the conveyance of knowledge, norms and values as the primary objectives of the school. The objectives of education, to be pursued through teaching, are expressed as the aims of education; and the objectives which all pupils must be given a chance of achieving, as the aims of educational requirements. The objectives are formulated in such a way that their achievement can be evaluated.
The compulsory school is no longer divided into levels. Instead, the new national syllabi for each subject are to state the objectives which are to be achieved by the end of the fifth and ninth year of school. This will provide an opportunity for nation-wide evaluation of school achievements after the fifth year. The syllabi will also indicate the aims of education as well as the purpose, structure and character of each subject, including each individual subject within natural science and social science. Teachers will, however, be given greater freedom in planning their teaching and in choosing their working methods and subject matter.
In order to ensure equivalent standard throughout the country, a timetable has been laid down by Parliament and has been attached to the Education Act as from 1st July 1995. It will indicate a minimum guaranteed teacher or supervisor led instruction time in units of 60 minutes over the 9 years, divided between different subjects and groups of subjects. The local educational authorities are free to decide on a more extensive timetable. The timetable also provides increased scope for individual electives for close study of one or more subjects. Teachers themselves, within the framework of the timetable, will decide the allocation of teaching time between different grades. The only restriction will be that imposed by the syllabus assessment at the end of the fifth and ninth year. In the new timetable more time is allotted to courses in second foreign languages. Among other things, Spanish is introduced as an alternative to German and French among the optional subjects that each municipality is obliged to offer. Local or individual electives may also include a third foreign language.
The curriculum makes clear the responsibilities incurred by all members of the school community. It also aims at strengthening the opportunities and duties for pupils and their families to be involved in decisions in school matters. The principals of the compulsory school have been given an overall responsibility for educational guidance. They have to ensure that the pupils obtain guidance to the offered choices of education at the school as well as guidance to further studies and vocational training.
The new curriculum will be common to the whole of the compulsory school system. However, some adjustments will be made to educational goals in order to accommodate special needs among pupils in special schools and school for the mentally handicapped.
AssessmentThe new marking system is to be objective and achievement-related instead of relative. It will be geared to special achievement criteria which are to be devised in conjunction with the syllabi so as to make it clear to teachers and pupils which achievements are necessary for the award of a certain mark. Final awards will be on a three-point scale: Pass, Pass with distinction and Pass with exceptional distinction.
Comparability will be achieved by means of national tests. Diagnostic tests in reading, writing and arithmetic should be administered in all municipal schools at the end of the second year. All municipal schools are also to administer subject tests in Swedish, English and mathematics at the end of the fifth and ninth years. Swedish tests are also to be administered at independent schools. All pupils will receive a leaving certificate.
TeachersTo qualify as a teacher a person must have completed a Swedish teacher training programme or equivalent certification from another Member State of the European Union. Unqualified teachers may be employed for a certain length of time if qualified staff are not available. Teachers are civil servants. They normally hold posts with conditional tenure, full time or part time.
Teachers in compulsory school are trained at universities and university colleges. The majority of teachers of general subjects now in service have been trained in the following way: class teachers for grades 1-3 and 4-6 have completed separate integrated training courses lasting 2½ years and 3 years, respectively; whilst subject teachers for grades 7-9 have a university or college degree in their subject(s), plus a diploma awarded on completion of a one-year course in the theory and practise of teaching.
A new integrated study programme was introduced in the academic year 1988/89. There are two branches in the programme: teachers of grades 1-7 and 4-9 respectively. A one-year course in the theory and practise of teaching is common to all students. Training for grades 1-7 takes 3½-4 years. Students can choose between three different variations of the basic curriculum and may also specialise in one of two different subject areas. Trainees for grades 4-9 may specialise in one of five different areas, and study between 3½ and 4½ years, depending on their specialisation. They could also extend their subject studies to qualify for service in the upper secondary school. As from the academic year 1992/93 there is an alternative route for teachers of grades 4-9, where subject studies in different combinations are followed by one year of practical pedagogical training.
Remedial teachers follow an extended study programme, lasting for one year or more, after their basic training as compulsory school teachers. Teachers of practical and artistic subjects are trained at special university colleges. They can specialize in one area but are also able, within a training programme for compulsory school teachers, to opt for a combination of their main subject with one or two others. Supervised teaching practice, equivalent to one term's full-time study, is a requirement in all teacher training.
Responsibility for in-service training is divided between the State and municipalities. The National Agency for Education must ensure that in-service training courses are available in all parts of the country, whilst the local education authorities are obliged by law to ensure that all school staff are adequately trained. For professionally active teachers universities and colleges arrange in-service training courses of varying length, from one week up to 20 weeks. The local education committee decides which teachers to send. In addition, all teachers are obliged to take part in school-based in-service training for five days a year, and in training activities after school hours.
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