Schooling around the World (Part 6)

After determining how each nation has organized its system of schooling (U.S., France, Germany, Russia, Japan) and seeing photos of different nations’ classrooms, similarities are obvious:

*Every nation compels parents to send their sons and daughters to school up to a decade or more.

*Every one pays the costs for schooling either directly or indirectly.

*Every one is age-graded.

*Every one publishes national (or state) curriculum standards for each elementary and secondary school subject.

*Every one tests student performance in elementary and secondary school subjects.

*Every one has at least one teacher for each classroom.

Some are national (or federal) systems and some are state-operated with the federal government and states splitting funding and supervisory responsibilities. All of these nations and their states set curriculum standards for each subject and administer tests to determine if schools and students are meeting those standards.

Some nations have centralized systems (e.g., France, Russia, Italy, Japan) where ministry officials make decisions for schools and some are decentralized (e.g., Canada, U.S. Norway) with states and local districts having a moderate degree of discretion to alter what national authorities require. Whether centralized or decentralized, individual schools in every nation have some autonomy in adapting national or state curriculum when organizing for instruction. Need I add that once they close their classroom doors, teachers also exercise discretion in teaching the lesson they planned for the students in front of them that day.

What needs to be stressed that these commonalities among nations in establishing and operating systems of schooling over the past century exist side-by-side with inevitable within-nation variations between rural and urban and wealthy and poor schools that exist. Both commonalities and variations influence the schooling and teaching that occurs daily.

For this post, I turn to Sweden. Again, I begin with a chart showing how the nation’s schools are organized followed by a series of photos of classrooms in the country drawn from the Internet. For longer descriptions of the Swedish system and its move from a highly centralized one to reforms in the 1990s that now allow parents to make choices among government schools and publicly funded independent ones (about five percent of students attend these schools), see here and here.

The Swedish system:

Here is a sampling of Swedish classroom photos:

Upper Secondary Classroom

Schoolchildren in Sweden, where free schools (ones run by parents) have teacher union support. Photograph: Chad Ehlers/Stock Connection/Rex Features
The Al-Azhar Primary School in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. (YouTube screenshot)
Swedish students in a classroom, Halmstad, Sweden, February 8, 2016. David Ramos/Getty

Primary school classroom
Upper Grade Primary Classroom

Sweden – Stockholm. Malaren district. Children in kindergarten playing with the teachers sit in a circle.

A high school class in Stockholm on Sept. 7, 2020, with no distancing and no masks.
Elisabeth Ubbe—The New York Times/Redux

Primary Classroom during the Pandemic–Credit: Alexander Olivera/TT

Kindergarten Class

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Schooling around the World (Part 6)

  1. One thing I admire about the Swedish classrooms is the lack of clutter on the walls. I wonder if this has been studied? I was always pressured to put more, more, more on my walls. In my first year, I had an oversized room – which was great – but I decorated each wall with one large bulletin board in the center and nothing above or below. My students were so serene that year, even though I had just as many troubled kids as any other year. I think that some classrooms bombard the senses and that is just too much for certain kids. These Swedish classrooms are almost minimalist. I feel calm looking at them.

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