The rise and fall of a equitable school system – Sweden and the PISA results

Sweden’s declining results in OECD’s international benchmarking test PISA have made headlines even abroad. At the beginning of the nineties Sweden had a school system that was among the best in the world with a very high level of equity. The tradition of universalism and comprehensiveness with minimization of streaming and tracking was then the hallmark of the Swedish education system.

In the last two decades, however, the Swedish public sector and education system have been radically and extensively transformed in a neo-liberal direction. It was a movement that was preceded by extensive decentralization of responsibilities from the state to municipalities and schools. Sweden have since these reforms were put in place started to fall in all international comparisons except when one is measuring English and computer proficiency, and to some extent civic issues. Sweden now only have two countries in the world that significantly perform worse in all three measured areas in PISA, namely Chile and Mexico, and Sweden is the country whose results have fallen the most in all conescutive rounds of PISA.

The results from PISA and some of the implications thereof as well as a short analysis of reasons for the deterioration of the results will be presented in the talk.

*Per Kornhall is one of the experts about the Swedish school system and has written several books. The most recent is the “Barnexperimentet – Svensk skola i fritt fall” which describes the history of the situation we have today. He has a PhD in systematic botanic and have been “undervisningsråd” at Skolverket. He has taken part in several recent discussions about the school situation in both radio and TV. He is a member of the KVA committée for schools questions and the KVA working group “The School in the future”.