Sweden COVID-19 education response


Universities and Upper Secondary Schools are closed since mid-March, but pre-schools, primary and secondary schools are open. There is no recommendation from the government to close schools but there’s a possibility for a school leader/headmaster to decide to close an individual school. The government has also made changes in the legislation to make it possible to very quickly decide on a number of actions if the situation should become worse, such as change of term, a possibility to schedule education on weekends and evenings, change of last day for final exams etc.

The reason to keep the schools open are multiple:

  1. To avoid loss of competence in critical areas such as healthcare, if parent are forced to stay home with their children
  2. The wellbeing of children
  3. To assure equivalent education
  4. The understanding that young children are not that vulnerable for the Covid.-19

When the Universities and Upper Secondary Schools closed down it happened very quickly.

A few Universities had made autonomous decisions to close the week before the government on March the 17th decided to close all higher education institutions from March 18th.

The curricula will be followed, although all national test in upper secondary schools have been cancelled. We don’t have final exams so all students are excepted to graduate as planned but there will of course not be much celebration.

The Scholastic Aptitude test has been cancelled and as a result, a number of young people who has this as a second chance if their grades won’t let them into the education they wish for, are at risk not to be able to start their University studies after summer. On the other hand, the government has increased the student numbers to meet the expected unemployment. (We have a cap on student numbers)

Many researchers have started to collect data from both students and teachers on how they experience this change and some reports have already been published. The transformation into digital/on-line teaching has gone surprisingly smoothly at both Universities and Upper Secondary Schools.  Thanks to the fact that learning management systems and videoconference tools were already in place at most institutions, the teaching could switch into distance teaching more or less overnight. It has, however been a high pressure on teaching staff to, not just, master the technique but also to adopt and develop the pedagogy.  The biggest challenges are connected to proficiency and vocational training and to assessment. There are many initiatives to support teacher, to share best practices and resources at both institutional and national level. Some support is organised though the Swedish National Agency for Education.

Students in Universities are overall finding that education works quite well but they miss the social interaction. Some students with special needs report that they actually benefit from on-line learning but at the same time others have big difficulties and are at risk of dropping out.

From upper secondary schools, there are some reports on improved attendance among students since the transformation into distance learning. As a result of the recommendation to stay at home even with the slightest symptom of a cold, the absence in schools has increased. On top of that, some parents kept their children home from schools since they didn’t agree with the decisions made by the authorities. To deal with the latter there has been a massive information campaign targeting the parents explaining the rationale behind the strategy but also reminding of the fact that school attendance is regulated by law. This has been translated into 10 different languages and seem to have had a positive effect on attendance.

There are also reports on children living in dysfunctional families suffering extra from this situation; there has been an increase of violence in close relations as well as in sexual abuse of children. There is great pressure on help lines for children and young people.

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