19 Sep '18 23:00>
Excellent article about the failing Swedish model of education:
To begin to illustrate the state of Sweden’s schools, we can make a comparison with the heavily criticized American education system. It is a common and understandable belief, in the U.S. and elsewhere, that Swedish schools compare favorably with American schools in terms of educational outcomes. But the weakest American students in 8th grade performed significantly better than the weakest Swedish 8th graders in the TIMSS Mathematics assessment in 2011, one of the international comparative tests that have existed since the 1990s. In the latest cycle of the TIMSS Mathematics assessment, conducted in 2015, the weakest U.S. and Swedish students performed identically, but American students outperformed Swedish students in all other percentiles.
In contrast, Swedish students outperformed their U.S. peers across the entire distribution in 1995. A similar negative development can be observed in Swedish students’ performance in the PISA. Swedish 9th graders performed above the international average in the first cycle of PISA in 2000, but then Sweden’s results steadily deteriorated in each of the three PISA core areas—reading, mathematics, and science—until a low point was reached in 2012. Another PISA assessment conducted in 2012 revealed shortcomings in creativity, critical thinking, curiosity, and perseverance, and ranked Sweden 20th out of 28 countries. The findings in the TIMSS and PISA assessments suggest that there has been a significant decline in knowledge among Swedish students in recent years.
Yet the average merit rating (based on grades) in the final year of Sweden’s elementary schools has markedly improved since the late 1990s, which is highly suspicious. Indeed, the disconnect between international assessments of Swedish students’ performance and their grades is compelling evidence of rampant grade inflation in Swedish elementary schools, and the same problem is showing in secondary education as well.
Furthermore, Sweden has one of the highest levels of absenteeism and late arrivals in the OECD. Depression and anxiety among children aged 10–17 also increased by more than 100 percent from 2006 to 2016. According to Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare, the reasons for this dramatic increase are most likely linked to schooling and the transition from school to adult life. Similarly, physicians have suggested that the soaring prescriptions for ADHD drugs in Sweden, where as many as nine percent of boys are medicated for ADHD in some counties, are related to factors within the school system.
Finally, there is a kind of malaise in the teaching profession. There is an acute shortage of teachers, mainly caused by a high dropout rate among students in education degree programs. A further crisis component is the selection of applicants. Today, only five percent of teachers deem their profession prestigious, and barely half of them would choose the same occupation again. This fall in teaching’s status is reflected in the sizable share of applicants with low grades from secondary school and who grew up in homes with less cultural capital. Moreover, teachers are one of the least satisfied groups in the Swedish labor market, even though teachers’ relative wages have increased sharply in recent years. A recent study showed that four out of ten active teachers are considering leaving the profession.
What on earth is going on?
* * *
Postmodern, social-constructivist philosophy has been institutionalized in many Western countries’ school systems, and this has adversely affected educational quality. This approach contends that knowledge and reality are subjectively constructed, which implies that knowledge cannot be transferred from teacher to student and that objectively measuring academic ability and achievement should not even be attempted. Instead, students should be given freedom of choice in their learning and work independently to acquire supposedly general skills such as creativity and critical thinking, which are considered more durable than ‘facts’ arbitrarily arranged in core subjects.
Sweden has gone the farthest toward abandoning a knowledge-based core curriculum and a pedagogy in which students internalize and learn to apply knowledge under the teacher’s instruction and supervision. Sweden has a long history of incorporating far-reaching social-constructivist ideas into the school system. At the same time, Sweden is also unique among Western democracies in its commitment to for-profit voucher schools and school competition. This combination has proven profoundly toxic for the quality of Sweden’s education....
Against this background, it is not surprising that Swedish students perform worse academically and are poorer in skills that hinge on subject-specific knowledge. The sharp rise in truancy, ADHD diagnoses, depression, and anxiety among Swedish pupils is equally unsurprising in a learning environment that eliminates teacher-centered direct instruction and continually overloads the pupils’ working memory, as they have to piece together information on their own. Naturally, a large number of teachers will also find their job unsatisfactory and consider leaving their profession when subject expertise is secondary, and the curriculum grants extensive influence regarding content and planning to their pupils. However, as in other countries with schools that are failing due to social-constructive educational reforms, the problems of the Swedish school system are not intractable. A paradigm shift in the view of truth and knowledge has the potential to yield radical improvements.