4.8 Cecilia Von Otter : “Schooling, well-being and agency among Swedish children”

Briefly about the Swedish
school system, we have a preschool system that is sort of world-famous I think with a very high coverage and its high quality and its low cost and around 80-90% of 2-year-olds are in at least part-time daycare. So, that would be 20 to 30 hours a week for those young kids because mothers are sorry are working already when their kids are that young. The sort of academic performance isn’t measured. Regarding preschool, it’s been for a long
time the ideology and the curriculum has been learning through playing but again sort of the push for higher productivity in education is leading to curricular changes asking for more schooling for these young kids. Similarly, we don’t have formal measurements of performance until mid-school when children are aged 12. So that’s I think kind of late and most likely it’s also going to change because we want to be able to measure achievement earlier in order to enhance productivity. One of the the arguments for earlier performance measures is also that if children are measured first at age 12, they don’t get support until after age 12. So compared to the Finish system which you might know are really good at at giving support to a lot of kids from really early ages so there’s no stigma and it’s when the children need it before they started failing in school. Sweden is sort of the opposite and I think we share that with a lot of countries that it’s just when we realize that these kids are going to fail in school they’re not even going to be able to apply to gymnasium that’s when we start helping them and those kids are so deep into
their failure that it’s very tough. So the first decisive tracking is at age 15 so I would say that many of the structural features of the Swedish school and the Swedish curriculum has been sort of allowing children to be children and trying to make social class differences important as late as possible and some of these changes are now being
rolled or these features are being rolled back and we have an increasing school segregation by parental education and income and migration status driven mainly by housing segregation. So children are put in school according to where they live and we live very separately so we’re talking about school as such a big problem. I think it’s every other day. I think students are surprisingly happy at school and then the other day I’m really worried about those 10% that aren’t but today is a quite happy So let’s take a look at the top blue line These are trends from the Board of Education survey starting in the year 2000 and ending in 2018. So in 2006 80% of children said in most or all classes the atmosphere is nice and positive and the trend is sort of flat and then it goes down a bit further. That’s just between 2015 and 2018 and might go back up and still 70 % says atmospheres is nice and positive I mean I don’t know if we would say that about our workplaces, perhaps but we’re in University we’re highly selected and then we have the yellow line which is a bit more depressing and that is “school makes me want to learn more”. So that’s one of the main goals of the Swedish school system it stated in the first paragraph that they should get a longing for more and lifelong learning but that’s around a bit less than 50% and it’s going down, if you want to make a thing about it, you probably could and you could say that the increasing focus on achievement might be one explanation to the declining trend but I’m not that sure similarly about half think that most or all teachers can make them interested in their subjects. Okay, right, well, maybe not I don’t know really what we would expect it’s not a success but I mean they’re forced to be in school and they are bullied for having nits and they you know this again there’s so much going on and still they don’t hate it! And then we have stress were around 2015 and then a steep increase between 2012 and 2018 saying “I feel stressed at school every day or once a week” So these lines: the dotted lines are light problems with worries, fear or anxiety self-reported for girls is a blue line and the orange dotted line is boys. So that’s where it’s kind of high and if we had longer series, it would be a clear increase so among girls it’s like 50% and perhaps increasing in the later period and among boys, as in most countries I guess, lower but still quite prevalent but even when self-reported, they don’t have a problem saying these aren’t severe my problems are not severe and the figures that I’m showing now and on the next slide are from national agencies but they were printed in a report from one of the organizations for improving mental health and prevention of suicide. And I find it quite interesting because many of the like anti-bullying organizations and the national agencies are showing these figures as we need to panic but this organization were like saying we need to deal with this much more cleverly because otherwise they have no protection against suicide if they’re not taught that anxiety, worries and fears when they are lights are part of life then we can’t help them when they move into the severe problems or if they might be starting in severe problems and moving into the real depressions and suicidal thoughts. So their take was quite different and that adolescents aren’t helped by us telling them that they’re too stressed, they’re too unhappy, they’re too depressed or that they are just generally too much and that’s one another concept that I might have expected to hear more is medicalization and the increasing of diagnosis.

Stephen Childs

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