Swedish education, a story of equality

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  • Publicado : 9 de marzo de 2011
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Society, Culture and Education in Sweden
A story of equality and freedom

It could be said that the ‘culture’ is what a ‘society’ makes of its tradition and history, and at the same time, any ‘society’ it is made from a population and its ‘education’, which leads us to education as starting point.
The history of Sweden has been developed in peace for almost two centuries, its inhabitants,most of them farmers and protestant, were already able to read before, in 1842, the primary education became compulsory.
During the second half of the XIX century and until mid-twentieth century, as the country was industrially developing, the social possibility of access to a better and more complete education extended. The number of schools grew, the teacher education improved, free and compulsoryeducation was extended, women joined the college and more secondary schools and universities were created. Sweden, with a social democrat government, goes from a relative poverty in 1930 to become one of the three richest countries in the world in 1970.
It could be said that until 1950, education was considered a way of social promotion. Whoever managed to pass the bar examination at the end ofthe school became a part of the social and academic elite of the country. Instruction was the way, for all accepted, to break social barriers. From 1950, the quickly industrialization of the country demanded a more skilled workforce, and it was then when raised the need to expand the education to a greater number of citizens. The extension of the school system should respect the principles ofequality and freedom, it was needed a new model of democratic school, a school that should give everyone the same opportunities.
During the sixties comes the “comprehensive” school model (grundskola), a school that wants to group together all the students in the same centre and with the same system from 12 to 16 years old. A school that pretends to erase any intellectual inequality within students.A school that wants to grant to any kind of study the same value, a school, ultimately, that intended to keep the students ‘busy’ instead of teaching.
In Sweden, before it was imposed this school model, there were created some pilot schools were set that should lead the implementation of the unified basic school. Some of those experimental schools, aware of the danger, made sound the alarm to theeducation authorities but the Social Democrats, turning a deaf ear to complaints from teachers, said that it was not an educational reform but political, and that it should be imposed because it was socially and democratically necessary.
Another step forward in the quest for equality was the educational reform thought which any teacher or parent were allowed to create a school with anindependent profile, those were what are called Independent Schools (friskolor). Over 10% of Swedish pupils were enrolled in private schools in 2008. Moreover, another way to guarantee the freedom is thought the possibility to choose within a vast range of different programmes.
All this can help us to picture the mentality of the Swedes. How a society organizes and develops its educational systems says alot of its way of thinking. So this leads us to think about a mentality that prioritizes equality and freedom above all.
And talking about equality, this cannot only be seen in education but also in the social area. Gender equality in Sweden has reached higher levels than in other European countries. ‘Gender equality’ is known in Swedish with the word jämställdhet. Equality means recognizing thesame rights, obligations and opportunities for men and women and prevents gender as a basis for discrimination or hindrance to personal development.

Sweden has been considered for years an advanced country on issues of equality. Since 1954 there is a Ministry of Equality. In 1991 it was created the Equal Jämställdhetlagen or Equality Law, lasting until January 1, 2009 when it entered into...
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