Intellectual capital dominates the knowledge society. In a knowledge society a large percentage of the workforce has a higher education. Everyone has access to information technology and new innovations are developed in quick succession. In a knowledge society the Government, businesses and individuals all invest in education and research.
One frequently asked question is if Swedish schools are good enough for us to assert ourselves in a climate of very tough international competition. Knowledge and skills that children receive at school from the primary to the upper secondary level pave the way for them to succeed in higher education. In order to remain a competitive knowledge nation, the whole research chain needs to perform at the highest level. The state of Swedish schools is therefore important to all of us.
What we know is that children in Swedish schools today are not as good at maths, sciences and reading comprehension as those in many of the countries that are competing with us. Despite the good news in the recent PISA study about improved Swedish school results, we are still far behind the leading nations.
Let’s take a look at two small and successful knowledge nations: Finland and Singapore.
Finland’s model for good schools is based on challenging and research-based teacher education. Well-educated and appreciated teachers are allowed to shape educational content and methods. Professional development for teachers is a constant process so as to take advantage of current research. Subject-specific didactics and up-to-date knowledge of the brain’s ability to receive and turn new knowledge into understanding are prioritised in teacher education in Finland.
Singapore’s school system is also based on skilled and considerate teachers with a passion for their work of changing children’s lives. Schools in Singapore must ensure that their pupils receive a solid foundation in reading, arithmetic, other based knowledge and skills that are essential for the future. In terms of results, Singapore is currently ahead of both the Swedish and Finnish school systems.
According to the OECD Swedish schools are suffering from a lack of clarity and consensus on exactly what the education system is supposed to deliver. The teaching profession is not appreciated to the same extent as in other knowledge nations and wages are low in comparison. Almost a quarter of all Swedish teachers do not have an academic degree. Last year the Swedish School Commission determined that the supply of teachers is inadequate and that there are shortcomings in professional development.
For almost 100 years IVA has focused on ensuring that cutting-edge research results in science,
technology and economics are used to make Sweden more competitive. The Academy has always pursued this goal in cooperation with business & industry. In matters of education our focus is usually on the higher education segment. When Sweden’s strong position in the world is threatened by poor school results, we must focus our initiatives on our schools as well. That is why we are now putting our heads together to help bring positive development to Swedish schools so that children at all levels are assured a good education based on scientific research and proven experience.