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Swedens Educational System

A brief Overview

Hausarbeit 2006 12 Seiten

Pädagogik - Schulwesen, Bildungs- u. Schulpolitik


Table of contents


The History of Sweden’s Education – short Review

Pre-school Education

Compulsory School

Upper secondary school

Higher Education

Adult Education


Discussion & Review



Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union after France and Spain. It has approximately 9 million inhabitants thereof ca. 1 million immigrants[1]. Till the end of August 2006 there had 64,681 Immigrants[2] been given excess to Sweden. So the population is heterogeneous and is concentrated in mainly three areas of the country.

“In an international comparison, the Swedish overall rate of participation in education is one of the highest.”[3] The basic principle of education in Sweden is equality. This means equality of opportunities/ access but also equality of outcomes/ results. Everybody in Sweden must have access to an equivalent, uniform education, regardless of sex, irrespective of their social or ethnic backgrounds or their place of residence, because a well-educated society is a prerequisite for the expansion of the country’s economic and the further development of the Swedish welfare state. There is also a big awareness of the importance of research and development. Due to this the cost for the education system in Sweden are very high, among the highest in the world[4].

In the following pages I want to outline the Swedish educational system. I will start with a sketch of the reforms and according to the lights of this essay I will begin with the 20th century. The goal is to shed light on the needs of the society and on political reasons of the reforms. Furthermore I will represent an overview of the today’s system and discuss the differences between the “old” and the “new” strategies as well as advantages and disadvantages.

The History of Sweden’s Education – short Review

In the 19th century Sweden rapidly transformed from an agricultural, traditional society into an industrialised society. During this industrialisation and also democratisation the well-known Swedish model developed (1920s). By this is the specific model of a social welfare system is meant. It was characterized by centralism, universalism and cooperation between the capital and labour (consensus). At that time the focus was on developing a (social) welfare system this includes also focus on the education system. In this inclusive and centralised welfare state, science was a tool for modernising society in large reforms. The peak was reached in the 1970s. During this decade the demands for decentralisation as well as pluralism increased. These processes were started in the late 1980s. The new comprehensive school (formal start of implementation in 1962) which supplants the two former different organisationally school forms, has been criticized for being too inefficient and also the steering from “above” was under attack. There were two separate school systems: elementary school from six or seven years and the grammar school but besides these two school forms there were several other organisations. The 1940 school year investigation group became the task to investigate the whole educational system. They came to the result that the two school forms should be brought together. But there was a big disagreement between the interested parties about the results of the report. Therefore a new commission started their work 1946 after the change of government.

One important result of the changes was that the state regulation became weaker; the responsibility for the school and social affairs was transformed to the municipalities.

These changes had a strong impact for the development of the today’s educational system.

The present system is mainly based on the reforms of 1994 concerning compulsory and upper secondary school as well the reform of higher education in 1993. Also directive was the transformation of responsibility from the Ministry of Health and care and Social Affairs to the Ministry of Education in 1996 and the reform of the preschool in 1998 (introduction of the first curriculum).

Following I am going to give a summary of the different parts of the educational system.

Pre-school Education

The history of Sweden’s child care lead back to the year 1854. In this year the first infant chrèche was opened. In the 1930s- 40s there increased a public demand on more responsibility from the state concerning child care. As a result in 1940 the first government grant was introduced. Later in the 1960s the number of gainful employed women increased and the National Commission on Childcare was established. One result of the investigation was, among others that the day care centres and playschools were combined in a pre-school system and another result was that since 1975 all children aged six and older were entitled to 525 hours’ free attendance at a pre-school facility[5]. This is a possibility for the child but it is mandatory for the municipalities. These results laid the foundations of the today’s pre-school system. During the 1990s the way of steering was revised. The central government became the task to outline the overall goals while the local authorities were responsible to implement them. In 1995 there was enacted a law that obliged the municipalities to offer all children between one and twelve years age whose parents are gainfully employed or studying, a place in on of the child care facilities. As mentioned above since 1998 child care belongs to the Ministry of Education, a new (and the first) curriculum was introduced as well as a new school form – the pre-school class.

The subject heading of the Swedish pre-school model is: “edu-care”. By this an interaction of service, care and education is meant[6]. There exist various forms of child care in Sweden: The pre-school is the most common type, in the family day-care homes municipal childminders provide child care in their own homes, the open pre-school is for children whom parents are home during the day. The children can attend educational group activities provided by the parents and municipal childminders. The open pre-school can be seen as a supplement to the family day-care homes. The pre-school class is a voluntary part of the national school system. The municipalities are responsible to provide each child that is six years old 525 hours’ free attendance in one of the facilities. This is free of charge since the attendance does not exceed 15 hours’ per week. The leisure-time centres have the purpose to provide care for the children before and after school as well as during the school holidays. Most of these facilities cooperate with the local schools.[7]


[1] This was in the year 1997. Cf.: Sweden 2000. p. 10.

[2] Cf.: (06.10.10.)

[3] (06.10.10.)

[4] Cf.: Statistics Sweden. Sweden 2000. p. 23.

[5] Cf.: Wikander, Lennart: The Educational System in Sweden – A Uniformed Model. 2004. p. 26.

[6] Cf.: Statistics Sweden. Sweden 2000. p. 35.

[7] Cf. Ib. p. 39; Swedish Ministry of Education and Science: The Swedish Education System. 1997. p. 15 ff.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
490 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Uppsala Universitet
Swedens Educational System Overview



Titel: Swedens Educational System