English is taught in Swedish schools
If you want to emigrate to Sweden with children, you cannot avoid studying the Swedish school. This discussion is important, because a lot in the Swedish school system is quite different from that in Germany. We highlight the key features and differences in this article.
The article is quite long (there is also a lot to say about the Swedish school). If you are only interested in certain aspects, you can jump to the corresponding section via the table of contents.
We'll start with the basics of the Swedish school system. How is it structured? Which values are fundamental? Then the individual components of the school system are presented, starting with pre-school education, through elementary school to high school. Also the alternative to municipal schools, the so-called friskolor, let's take a closer look. Then the grades and the teaching structures are examined. We also highlight special support offers for immigrants.
Table of Contents
- The Swedish school - a first overview
- Core values of the Swedish school
- Pre-school education
- The heart of the Swedish school: the Grundskola
- The Swedish grammar school: different than in Germany
- Free School (friskolor)
- Development talks and plans
- Organization of lessons and school
- Support offers for New Sweden
The Swedish School - a first overview
The development of the Swedish school goes hand in hand with the development of the welfare state in Sweden, the folkhem. When the Social Democrats took over the government in the 1930s and then governed almost continuously until today, they began to build the very special Swedish form of the welfare state. Nobody should be left behind, everyone should have the same opportunities - these principles also became authoritative for the school and continue to shape it to this day.
The elementary and comprehensive school is created
In the decades after the Second World War, the school system as it exists in Sweden today gradually developed: an all-day school. Compulsory schooling lasts nine years and begins with attending primary school Grundskola, covered. Everything before and after is voluntary. From the age of one year, a child can attend preschool, förskola, visit. For the six-year-olds there is the preschool class, förskoleklasswhich is supposed to prepare for elementary school. This is followed by the nine-year elementary school, after which the three-year grammar school can be attended, where one can acquire the higher education entrance qualification, but also complete vocational training.
Other significant differences to the German school system are that grades are only awarded from the 6th grade onwards and there is no such thing as sitting down.
Centralization and communalization of the school
On the one hand, the Swedish school is heavily centralized, as the central school board, the skolverket, publishes basic regulations such as curricula that are mandatory for all schools across the country. On the other hand, the school system is highly decentralized because the schools are organized locally. The municipalities are therefore responsible for equipping the schools, but also for recruiting and paying teachers. The teachers are not civil servants, but municipal employees.
Swedish teachers earn different salaries as employees from municipality to municipality, but generally less than their German colleagues. In 2015, the average gross income was just over 30,000 kroner, i.e. around 3,000 euros.
Value of education
That being said, education is very important to Swedes. This becomes clear when comparing the expenditures for educational institutions, which are significantly higher than the German: Swedes spend more than 7% of GDP on education. This is a top value not only in Europe, but also worldwide. In Germany, however, it is less than 5%. More money for the schools means that they are usually well equipped and that other staff can be employed in addition to the teachers. This is how cooks, social workers, psychologists, librarians, social and leisure educators and others work. at Swedish schools. The class sizes can also be kept smaller: on average, around 20 students attend a class.
The core values of the Swedish school
The Swedish school puts the child and its development at the center of its work. It wants to be democratic and guarantee equal opportunities. In addition, one would like to allow the schools a lot of independence.
Primary goal: equal opportunities
These are big words that can easily become empty phrases. But the Swedes show that they actually want to live these values in school. This should be clarified with a few examples:
If every child is to have the same opportunities for a successful and self-determined life, then the parents' wallet should not play a role. Consequently, the Swedish school (apart from the voluntary förskola and the fritidshem, an offer for additional care) free of charge. Even free schools are not allowed to charge any fees. However, each of us knows that there are many other cost factors lurking in school: canteen meals, excursions, exchange programs, books, notebooks ... The Swedes are consistent here, because the school should actually be free of charge. So meals are free, excursions or exchange trips cannot be financed privately and the school also provides books, notebooks, and sometimes even pens.
Leave no child behind
To ensure that no child is left behind, the schools offer a wide range of support options. The most important are probably the individual development plans and the development talks. Both elements should help to identify strengths and weaknesses of the students, to help them to achieve jointly defined goals and, last but not least, to let them participate in their own learning process. Not only teachers and parents, but also the children themselves are involved in the biannual development talks.
The independent, communal school
Another essential cornerstone is the independence of the individual schools. The central one Skolverket only provides the framework and checks the schools. How the school work is structured, which teachers are hired, what the timetables look like, what and how much money is spent, all this is decided by the individual school in consultation with the municipality, which is the school authority in Sweden. The municipalities receive lump sums from the state depending on the number of pupils who pass them on to the schools.
This communalization has many advantages, as schools can adapt to the specific challenges they face and develop their own profiles. However, there is also a disadvantage: if the individual schools and municipalities can have a greater say in how the schools should be designed, the municipal school principals and the rectors have more influence on the quality of the school. Where there are less ambitious school heads, the quality can suffer accordingly. As a result, the level of schools varies greatly from municipality to municipality.
Pre-school education - förskola and förskoleklass
Gender equality and thus the compatibility of work and family have traditionally been of great importance in Sweden. As a result, pre-school education is important so that both parents can get back to work quickly after the birth of a child.
Day care center and kindergarten: the förskola
From the age of one, every child is entitled to a place in the förskola. The municipalities are obliged to provide the places. In order to do justice to everyone, many of these facilities, which roughly correspond to German kindergartens, have long opening hours.
The förskola will often too dagis (Short form of daghem), but officially there are only those förskola, which represents its own type of school. Even if the name is reminiscent of a school, it is förskola but much more kindergarten. Play, discovery and togetherness are the main focus. An average of 16 children attend a group; for every educator there are 5.2 children.
Costs for the förskola
In contrast to all other types of school, the Swedish kindergarten is not free - at least not for those who take it longer. It's free förskola only if the child only needs to be looked after for three hours a day from the age of three. With younger children and with longer-term care, there are costs that vary from municipality to municipality and are usually in relation to income. Most municipalities have a so-called maxtaxa introduced, which means that there is some upper limit. So the prices do not rise immeasurably.
An example from Karlstad: If the child lasts more than three hours a day or 15 hours a week förskola visits, the first child costs 3% of the parents' income, but max. 1260 kr. With the second child it is only 2%, but max. 840 kr, and with the third 1% or max. 420 kr.
You can usually find detailed information about the exact costs on the homepages of the municipalities.
On the other hand, the förskoleklasswho have had six-year-old children visit since 2018 (previously she was voluntary). It only lasts one year and is intended to enable a smooth transition from kindergarten to school. Often this type of school is already spatially attached to the primary school, which is why some also speak of a ten-year primary school. In the förskoleklass the children are usually three hours a day. Since this is of course not enough for working parents, the offspring can also use the fritidshem (for children between 6 and 13 years of age). But this in turn is chargeable.
The heart of the Swedish school: the Grundskola
The heart of the Swedish school is the Grundskola. It can be translated as elementary school, but this arouses false expectations in many Germans, since they assume a four or six year elementary school. The Swedish Grundskola but is a nine-year comprehensive and all-day school and covers compulsory schooling for Swedish children. The förskola before and everything after that is voluntary Grundskola its a must.
The school used to be divided into three stages: lågstadiet, mellanstadiet, Högstadiet. Each stage spanned three school years. Nowadays this classification is dispensed with; the Högstadiet However, it differs from the lower school years through the choice of pupils and the subject teacher principle. There are also schools that only cover grades 1 to 5 and some that cover grades 6 to 9.
Many different school profiles
Free choice of school was introduced in 1994, so that parents have since been free to choose which one Grundskola to visit her child. The aim of this measure was to increase the competition between schools and to increase the profile of the individual schools. This has been quite successful, because there are many schools that offer special offers, for example English-language specialist lessons, certain sports profiles, etc. However, the fact that you are free to choose your school does not mean that you are guaranteed a place at the school of your choice. Those pupils for whom the school is closest always have priority.
Since the Swedish school is an all-day school and must also be free of charge, food in the cafeteria is also free. The schools usually have their own cooks. Librarians, psychologists, recreational educators, social workers, school nurses and others also cavort in the schools. In contrast to Germany, where the teaching staff cover a wide range of activities, Sweden has the appropriate specialist staff.
Compulsory all-day school
Classes usually end around 3 or 4 p.m. Those who want to stay longer in school will usually find appropriate offers, such as those made by recreational educators.
As in Germany, the curriculum regulates the basic content that is to be learned. in the läroplan the knowledge and skills that the children should have acquired after the 3rd, 6th and 9th grade are recorded. At these times, national examinations are carried out to check whether the students have achieved these goals. In order to ensure an equal level across the country (and certainly also to put some pressure on the schools), the results are published and can be viewed by everyone.
In addition to the Grundskola there are two other types of school: The Grundsärskola visit children with certain developmental disorders. If you have very special needs, for example the deaf and mute, you can also use the specialskola walk. Further information on the sar- and specialskolor can be found here.
Unlike in Germany: the Swedish grammar school
The Swedish high school has two things in common with the German grammar school: It is a secondary school and you can acquire the higher education entrance qualification here. Otherwise, the grammar schools in Sweden and Germany can hardly be compared with each other. The differences are too big.
Almost 90% of a year changes to the Grundskolato the three-year high school. That sounds like a very impressive number, but it is put into perspective when you know that technical and vocational schools in Sweden are integrated into the grammar school. It is therefore almost a must to switch to high school.
Those who have access authorization can enroll in one of 18 national programs (or one of the additional regional programs). In addition to theoretical-academic programs that prepare directly for studying at a university or college, such as the social sciences and the natural sciences, there are practical career-preparatory programs to choose from, with which one is not directly admitted to study, but also through additional courses Can find access to a university.
Who is allowed to go to high school?
But who is now entitled to attend high school? In principle, anyone who has passed Swedish (or Swedish as a second language), mathematics, English and five other subjects in primary school can switch to grammar school. However, if you want to join a university preparatory program, you have to have passed nine other subjects. In addition, individual programs require certain subjects to be passed. For example, only those who have passed geography, history, politics and religion are included in the social science program.
And there is one more caveat: certain programs are very popular. If a lot of students apply, the grades decide who gets a place and who doesn't. So it pays to make an effort in the ninth grade and to ensure a good foundation.
If the grades from elementary school are not sufficient, the train has not yet left. Because then you can enroll in special introductory programs in which the missing knowledge can be made up.
With points for studies or training
Those who have found a place at the grammar school now have three years to collect a total of 2500 points by taking various courses. There are compulsory courses, but there are also courses that the students can choose freely. In order to receive the university entrance qualification, a student must pass courses with a total of at least 2250 points. The Swedish grammar schools are sometimes very specialized and have a distinctive profile, which is why it is worthwhile to take a closer look when choosing a school and to think carefully about which grammar school is most suitable for your own wishes. The search function of the grammar school guide helps here.
Free schools – friskolor
In Sweden there are many free schools in addition to the municipal schools, the so-called friskolor or deadline for color, which is why it may be a consideration for one or the other to enroll the child in such a school. Between 10 and 15% of all primary school students and around one in four high school students attend one friskola. Almost every second grammar school is not publicly owned. They are particularly popular in metropolitan areas.
A real market for independent schools has now developed in Sweden. True, there are many friskolor in the sponsorship of foundations or associations. But there are also profit-oriented corporations, for example AcadeMedia, the largest Swedish school group, which offer education as a kind of commodity. It is almost logical that this development does not remain free of criticism.
Criticism and promotion of free schools
The bourgeois-conservative governments in particular have promoted the development of free schools and thus the privatization and commercialization of education in the past. The social democratic governments, on the other hand, tried to limit the excesses. So in 1992 the bourgeois government introduced that friskolor must be financed by a municipal contribution, which triggered a real boom. After the change of government in 1994, the regulations for the establishment of a free school were tightened.
Another point of criticism was eliminated with the new 2011 curriculum. Until then, there was hardly any action against free schools that had not adhered to the curriculum, as a result of which, for example, religious schools, in which creationism was taught, came under heavy criticism. Since 2011 the friskolor forced to stick to the curriculum.
Since then, the debate about independent schools has become a little quieter, although religiously sponsored schools in particular continue to cause discussions.
Often only minor differences
Often the difference between free and communal schools is small. Because even the free ones have to be completely free of charge for the students, they are largely financed by the municipality and they are committed to the curriculum. In terms of quality, too, they do not differ that much (when looking at the performance of the students).
Grading in the Swedish school
In the past, like the free schools, grades were the subject of much discussion. In Swedish schools, until 2011, children only received grades from the 8th grade onwards. Before that, there were written assessments, but no digits. The grading scale had four levels: MVG (mycket väl godkänd) meant a very good performance, VG (väl godkänd) a good performance, G (godkänd) was called passed and IG (icke godkänd) failed.
Grading from the 6th grade
These notes have been a thing of the past since 2011. Since then, students have been graded from the 6th grade (or in the second foreign language from the 7th grade). In an international comparison, this is still quite late. The newly introduced six-point scale from A to F allows a little more differentiation. A is the best grade; anyone who receives F has failed. Certificates are issued after every semester.
The way the grades are collected is not that different from Germany. Oral and written assessments, group work, laboratory tests, presentations and much more can be used. respectively. It is important, however, that the teacher must inform the students about what to expect and what kind of tasks must be completed so that each student has the opportunity to prepare well.
A Swedish peculiarity are the national exams, which are carried out at the end of 3rd, 6th and 9th grade in the central subjects. These take place at the same time across the country and are intended to help ensure equality of educational level across Sweden. They also give the teachers good feedback on whether they have brought their students to the level that is required.
In the grades in which there are still no grades, the teachers are obliged to formulate individual development plans for each individual student. These contain an assessment of performance and behavior, at the same time they are also oriented towards the future by recording what needs to be done so that the child can develop as best as possible. For more information, see below.
Development talks and plans
The individual support of every single student is very important in Sweden. This can be seen, among other things, in two elements of the Swedish school, the development talks (utvecklingssamtal) and the individual development plans (customization planner - IUD).
What's it all about?
In grades 1 to 5, in which there are still no grades, the class teacher or mentor draws up an individual development plan for each of his students once a year. From the 6th grade onwards, this is no longer compulsory, many schools still do it, perhaps in a slightly slimmed-down version.
The development plan consists of two parts. One part is descriptive: What can the student do? Where does he still have weaknesses? How does he behave in class and towards his classmates? This is roughly what we know from German primary school certificates. The second part, on the other hand, describes which activities are necessary on the part of the school, the parents and the pupil so that they can continue to achieve their goals in the future or close existing gaps. The development plans are continued year after year, so that it can be checked in the following year whether the set goals have been achieved or not.
Conversation between teacher, parent and child
In the development talk, which is held at least once every six months, more often if desired, between the class teacher / mentor, parents and students, the development plan then forms the basis of the conversation. The social and school development of the child is discussed together, and the goals are considered together be targeted and how to achieve them.
For example, a student does not achieve the learning objectives in mathematics. The teachers find that the student is quickly overwhelmed in class and can no longer keep up. He needs special support. Now the school can consider with the parents and the student whether it might make sense for an additional teacher to be present for one or two math lessons per week to help the student. After a few weeks it should be checked whether the measure has brought anything or not.
So if you send your child to school in Sweden, you have to expect that the teachers will devote themselves much more intensively to each child than you might be used to in Germany. But parents also have to be prepared for the fact that one cannot avoid parents' evenings. The two development interviews are compulsory.
How the lessons and the individual schools are organized
In Germany, the lone fighter system still prevails in many schools. Each teacher works more or less for himself, the exchange with colleagues is rarely institutionalized and is mostly based on the voluntary commitment of the teachers.
Teamwork in the Swedish school
Swedish schools are structured completely differently. Because here teamwork is the focus - both group work with students and work in a team of teachers for the educators. Not all, but many schools - at least that basic color - are organized as follows: three or four classes are combined into one unit, which is permanently supervised by a team of around 4 to 8 teachers. These teachers mostly teach the classes in their unit (usually over several years) and share a common work space. As a result, the teachers know their students (and also their parents) very well, they are constantly talking and can help students more quickly.
Frontal teaching is rather rare in Sweden. Project and group work or forms of independent, exploratory learning, in which the teacher slips more into the role of the learning companion, however, occur frequently. Since the school is an all-day school, homework is not as common as in Germany. Of course, they can still occur, e.g. when vocabulary is to be learned.
45 minute hours? Usually not.
Anyone who knows the German school is often irritated when they see a Swedish timetable for the first time. In Germany, the breaks are the same, so the whole school has a break, start and finish of lessons, etc. at the same time. The lessons also usually last 45 minutes. Always.
In Sweden it is different: in some schools the students even have an open beginning. Some come at 8 a.m., others at 8:30 a.m. This is followed by an hour that lasts 60 minutes and is followed by 40 minutes and 90 minutes. The breaks vary from class to class. The school can do this as it sees fit. The law only stipulates the hours that must be taught in each subject. How these are distributed, however, can be regulated flexibly. In the Alléskolan in Floda, this even goes so far that the teaching teams design the timetable for their unit completely themselves.
It is obvious: Swedish schools are much more independent and clocked significantly differently than you know from Germany.
School for New Sweden - What kind of support is there?
Anyone who emigrates to Sweden and sends their children to school there is initially faced with a major problem: How are the children supposed to come along in class if they do not yet really understand the language? Doesn't that mean they have immense disadvantages?
Of course, these fears cannot be dismissed out of hand. In the beginning, this situation can be exhausting and exhausting. But children, especially when they are younger, often absorb a new language like a sponge of water. You learn very quickly and will settle in quickly.
Swedish as a second language
Sweden, as a classic immigration country, has adjusted well to New Sweden and offers newcomers some assistance that can be made use of:
Children who have a mother tongue other than Swedish do not have to take part in normal Swedish lessons, but can attend Swedish as a second language. This offer is currently being used by around 10% of all students. Language acquisition is the focus here. If you make rapid progress, you can switch to normal Swedish lessons, but you don't have to. In order to gain access to high school or university, it is usually sufficient to have passed Swedish as a second language. The rector decides whether Swedish is offered as a second language at a school. So he is the contact person if this offer is desired.
Lessons in the mother tongue
Another form of support offered by the Swedish state is mother tongue teaching. After all, we know that children learn better and more intensively in the beginning when they can do so in their mother tongue. It is obvious that you can grasp and understand relationships more quickly in your own language and think through more complex things. Learning in your mother tongue is simply easier. In primary school and high school, the municipality is obliged to offer mother tongue tuition if there are at least five students with a particular language who are entitled to and want this tuition, and if a suitable teacher is available. In the school year 2016/17, 27% of all pupils were entitled to mother tongue lessons, of which slightly more than half took advantage of this offer.
Mother tongue lessons are organized locally. You can usually find information on the municipality's homepage. Some municipalities also offer special preparatory classes in which children can make a new start in Sweden particularly easy. Also ask the relevant contact person in the municipality about this. Here is an example from Lidköping municipality.
Support in the språkin production
The Språkintroduktion program is available for young people who have completed primary school but have not been admitted to grammar school due to poor grades - especially in Swedish as a second language. This is specially geared to the needs of New Sweden and aims to make them linguistically fit for other grammar school programs.
So if you emigrate to Sweden with children, you don't have to worry that they won't come with you because of the language at school. The Swedes do a lot for integration and there is extensive support available.
13 tips on how to learn Swedish yourself can be found here.
Do you want to know more about the Swedish school?
There are a few German schools that are trying to adopt the Swedish way of organizing the school. Teamwork should be the center of work. The change is not always easy.
As part of my dissertation, I examined the different paths different German schools have taken to do this. In the first part of the book you will find a comprehensive insight into the Swedish school system.
Cover photo: Lena Granefelt / imagebank.sweden.se
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