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EDUCATION

Minister proposes elite high school classes

Sweden's education minister Jan Björklund on Tuesday proposed the establishment of elite high school classes to enable select pupils to pursue upper secondary classes and the study of a chosen subject in depth.

Minister proposes elite high school classes

According to the legislative proposal, which will now be referred for consideration, the government opens the way for high schools (högstadiet) to select pupils for the elite classes with the help of testing.

The classes are designed to allow talented pupils a freer hand to study as many upper secondary school (gymnasium) courses as they can, in advance.

If the proposal is passed into law the classes will be established from the autumn term 2012.

Björklund underlined at a press conference announcing the plan that entrance examinations are of core importance – well-educated middle class parents will not be allowed to use their contacts and persuasion to secure a place for their child, it should be the pupil’s talent alone which decides, he said.

The minister conceded on Tuesday that in fact the elite classes are nothing new and already exist within subjects such as music and sport.

“I don’t understand why it should be taboo to also have specialised education for talented pupils in academic subjects in high school.”

Björklund blamed the previous Social Democratic government for perpetuating the Jante Law within Swedish education, referring to the generally applied sociological term to negatively describe an attitude towards individuality and success.

“We have had a Social Democratic Jante Law casting a shadow for decades over initiatives such as this within Swedish schools policy. It is a Jante Law that we want to leave behind us,” Jan Björklund said.

The Swedish compulsory schooling system consists of nine academic years from the age of around 7-years-old. The nine years are divided into three blocks of entitled low, middle and high “stadium” and are followed by a three year upper secondary education which is not compulsory and typically offers more specialisation.

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EDUCATION

IES chain blocked from opening four new schools

Sweden's Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES) chain has been denied permission to open four new schools in Gothenburg, Huddinge, Norrtälje, and Upplands-Bro, after the schools inspectorate said it had not provided pupil data.

IES chain blocked from opening four new schools

According to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) has denied permission to the chain to open a new planned new school in Norrtälje, north of Stockholm, even though the building that will house it is already half built. The inspectorate has also denied permission to three other schools which the chain had applied to start in 2023. 

In all four cases, the applications have been rejected because the school did not submit the required independent assessment for how many pupils the schools were likely to have. 

Jörgen Stenquist, IES’s deputy chief executive, said that IES has not in the past had to submit this data, as it has always been able to point to the queues of pupils seeking admissions to the school. 

“The fact that Engelska Skolan, as opposed to our competition, has never had the need to hire external companies to do a direct pupil survey is because we have had so many in line,” he told DN.

“In the past, it has been enough that we reported a large queue in the local area. But if the School Inspectorate wants us to conduct targeted surveys and ask parents directly if they want their children to start at our new schools, then maybe we have to start doing that.”

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According to the newspaper, when the inspectorate had in the past asked for pupil predictions, the chain has refused, stating simply “we do not make student forecasts”, which the inspectorate has then accepted. 

However, in this year’s application round, when IES wrote: “We do not carry out traditional interest surveys as we simply have not had a need for this,” the inspectorate treated it as grounds to reject its applications. 

According to DN, other school chain have been complaining to the inspectorate that IES gets favourable treatment and was excused some requirements other chains have to fulfil. 

Liselotte Fredzell, from the inspectorate’s permitting unit, confirmed that the inspectorate was trying to be more even handed. 

“Yes, it is true that we are now striving for a more equal examination of applications. Things may have been getting too slack, and we needed to tighten up.” 

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