Sweden told to invest in better teaching staff

UPDATED: Swedish schools have been sharply criticized by experts from the OECD after a decade of slipping education results and told to invest in teacher training.

Sweden told to invest in better teaching staff
Pupils in Stockholm. Photo: TT

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The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a review of Sweden's school system on Monday morning.

The report, titled 'Improving Schools in Sweden: An OECD Perspective', provided a series of recommendations to reverse a decade-long decline in the country's performance in the OECD's Programme of International Student Assessment (Pisa) survey, with a focus on teacher training and higher entry requirements for future school staff.

The study comes follows the latest international Pisa survey, in December 2013, which showed that Swedish pupils' knowledge in the subjects of mathematics, natural sciences, and reading comprehension had dropped the most out of all the 33 OECD countries – after having been one of the top performers at the start of the new millennium. The then centre-right coalition asked the OECD for help to assess what had gone wrong.

OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher, Professor Graham Donaldson of Glasgow University, and OECD analyst Marco Kools presented the findings to Sweden's Education Minister Gustav Fridolin of the Green Party, Minister for Upper Secondary Schools Aida Hadzialic of the Social Democrats, and the Director-General of the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) Anna Ekström at a press conference in Stockholm on Monday.

Schleicher said that Sweden needed to invest in its teaching staff, through higher wages and career opportunities. He also said that Swedish teachers should demand more from their pupils.

"In general, the Swedish students' own expectations were relatively low in comparison with other countries," he told the conference.

He highlighted large divides between schools in different regions. Swedish schools are largely run at council level. The current government has previously mentioned greater state involvement as one of the areas it wants to invest in.

"The teaching profession is no longer attractive in Sweden," he told reporters.

"Only five percent of teachers think what they do everyday is respected by society."

The report also warned of growing inequality with almost half (48 percent) of immigrant children failing to make the grade in mathematics and called for changes to the free school-choice system to counteract the risk of segregation.

Anna Ekström, head of Sweden's education agency, said "no one was surprised" by the critical report which was requested by the outgoing centre-right government last year.

"Our education system has problems," she said, adding: "we have a clear view of the challenges the Swedish school system is facing."

Sweden's left-green government has launched an inquiry into new education reforms due to report next year and had pledged a major increase in teaching salaries from 2016.



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‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

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“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.