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tisdag, augusti 12, 2014

What could save the Swedish school

Debate about the Swedish school in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
My school in the middle of the fifties. In those days many of us walked to school or biked. In the winter we  came skiing to the school. The one who had the longest and hardest way to go has a sister who now is a famous actress. The name of the teacher was Jane Rhodin
The requirements in today school is hard on the pupils in the elementary schools in Sweden is the heading of the article, written by by doctors and psychologists working in neurodevelopment. They say "More and more pupils from elementary school are referred from School Health to Public Health - child psychiatry and pediatrics - because they do not reach the school's goals."


The article also says "We ask ourselves what cognitive requirements are needed to achieve the goal of the school. Can all students do so? Do the cognitive demands in how to plan, analyze and reflect match the development of a child. "
I do answer yes to these questions- at the moment- a large minority leaves the primary school without approved grades. But why? Is it the caracteristics of the pupils, does it depend on how the school functions or could it be the social settings etc ? Certainly all factors are involved.

Some years ago I wrote about biological maturation and how it differs greatly among the pupils. When the children in a school grade are 13 years old chronologically, some of them might be about 16 as to biological age and others 11. This also applies to the brain and learning neuroplasticity. This will also influence the results of the children and their performance. This is a part of the problems. Children in Sweden finish the elementary school in a bewildering period of their lives- the puberty.
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The performance of Swedish pupils compared to pupils of other nations in the PISA surveys tells us that probably it is not the learning ability which make the difference as to the results of the children. A similar variation in biological age exists worldwide. Still this is factor to be taken in account.
But perhaps the PISA surveys are not particularly indicative:.-The social researcher Bi Puranen, secretary general in World Values Survey, talked about this in her excellent summer program in the Swedish Public Radio. She said that the Swedish school is unique among other things by its mix of culture (crafts, music, image, etc.) and this makes our young people creative, and that has given them success in many areas. Music export, computer games, Skype, trucks you name it. One of the latest examples was another voice in the same series of radio programmes Felix "Pewdiepie" Kjellberg. The PISA surveys are only a small component when examining the school issues.

On TV ( UR) I saw a program named W
orld's Best Crap School. Some twenty years ago the Swedish school was run by the state but now the local communities are responsible and a consequece is that schools can be very different in Sweden, depending on where you live. Danderyd, the municipality with the best resultss at school was examined. It turned out that it is a rich society and the parents were resourceful. They had the money to hire help with homework. One mother tried in vain to gain support for her two sons  who were dyslectic. Luckily their grandmother was a retired special education teacher and the parents also could afford to hire help with homework. In Kungälv the authorities made a fusion of two schools with problems but the staff were creative and developed a pedagogy that was successful. Now almost all the students in that school reach the goals of the elementary school. Surprisingly the local government did not notice this. They had a lot of other schools where the students did not pass the grade but did not study or notice what the successful school did. Or is it not a surprise? One of the things they did in the success school was examining if the pupils did understand what they read ( reading comprehension). And many did not do that even after five or six years in school.

It is election campaign in Sweden this year.
The Social Democrats suggests that there should be mandatory with high school ( 10-12 years). Maybe not wrong but  at first they have to fix the problems of  the elementary school (1+9 years).

Moderaterna, the conservative or the moderates, propose more mathematics. Hard to believe that this would work to lift the students who do not pass basis. Those students have stopped to listen and doing the home works.

The Christian Democrats, by contrast has an excellent proposal. They suggest an hour of physical activity every day. The research supports this. The Swedish Medical Association makes a similar statement: In their journal Läkartidningen you could read about 12 points for a new health policy in order to meet the medical problems of modern society: T2D, obesity and other chronical diseases. One of the twelve points is: One hour of physical activity in school everyday
The knowledge of what physical exercise does for your health has multiplied in recent decades.
Today the health service must inform about physical activity and motivate people to be physically active. As to school all students must be physically active at least one hour a day and all students must be involved in the education of play and athletics.


There is thorough science supporting that physical activity each day makes  the school results better in many subjects such as maths, language besides better physics. In Sweden, similar studies have been done also showing the importance of regular and daily physical exercise.

And we have many other factors, these were only some spot-checks. But physical activity every day could lift the school and ..... the public health.

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