Sweden has long prided itself on its educational ranking. As it should. It has had a pretty solid reputation over the years. But it turns out that those rankings have been falling. For the last 12 years actually.
Sweden’s fall in the math and science rankings is one of the worst of the 35 countries included in the study.
Of course, there are differing opinions as to why this is happening. Some are blaming it on immigration. The idea there being that the increase in immigration, and especially refugee immigrants, has left teachers and the school system unprepared to handle the influx. I don’t know. Possible I suppose.
Another reason, and one that I believe plays a bigger role than immigration, is Sweden’s educational system overall. And what the Newsweek article refers to as a “lax education philosophy.”
Let me first explain that I never went to high school in Sweden. Or any sort of primary education. I can’t speak from a Swedish experience. I can however speak from a secondary educational experience. Because I have taken university classes here in Sweden. Classes in which retests were the norm. Not because it was hard, but because people would come in, read the test, and walk out. They knew that the retest would be similar and now they knew what to study. Pissed me off to no end. Mostly because I worked my ass off and studied and passed everything in the first go ‘round. But I couldn’t go back and improve my grades if I had wanted to.
Anyway, that lax education philosophy refers to the lack of grading. Students in elementary school don’t receive grades. The article says most don’t get graded until 8th grade. Jan Björklund, the education minister, has implemented a plan that will start grading 10 year olds. Sixth graders, by 2011. Which has been met with all sorts of criticism. Because we wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings you know. God forbid someone realize that they aren’t as good as someone else at something.
People are different. And some people are good at some things while others aren’t. Some people are more athletic. Some people are better looking. And some people are smarter. That means that some people are less athletic, ugly, and stupid. Which is unfortunate for them. But let’s not piss on their legs and tell them it’s raining. It does no one any good. Instead let them realize they aren’t good at math while realizing that they are good at historical research. Or that they can’t play basketball worth a damn but can shoot a target from 20 meters after having cross country skied 5 km.
Sweden’s idea that everyone is equal only leads to a false sense of security that does not match the real world. The real world makes judgments. For better or worse. To keep students from being graded until they are teenagers does nothing but create a group of coddled young people ill prepared for any sort of negative feedback that may come their way.
Obviously, grading sixth graders alone isn’t enough to halt the plummeting rankings. But, in my opinion, it can’t hurt. Grades make for accountability. They force people to look at areas they need to improve on. They act as indicators of where you are, where you should be, and even where you are going. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Welcome to Sweden. And a fall in the maths and sciences.