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The basic principle guiding Swedish education since the Curriculum from 1980 is ‘a school for all’, meaning access to equivalent education regardless of background, prerequisites or needs. If a learner is in need of additional adjustments to reach the educational targets, he or she should in the first instance be offered that within the ordinary education programme. If additional adjustments are not enough, or not expected to be enough, it is the responsibility of the head teacher to ensure that the learner's needs are investigated.
The right to adjustments and support also applies to learners' general situation, including disadvantaged backgrounds resulting from disability, personal, socio-economic and/or cultural circumstances.
Universities and university colleges are obliged to consider the special needs of students who have physical disabilities or for other reasons experience difficulties in following courses and therefore they also receive special funds to be used for special pedagogical support to disabled students to compensate functional limitations.
Special educational support is provided within mainstream education as well as in education in following cases:
- for pupils with severe intellectual impairments (särskola),
- for pupils with severe physical disabilities (specialskolan),
- the upper secondary school for pupils with severe intellectual impairments (gymnasiesärskolan),
- the upper secondary school for pupils with impaired hearing (riksgymnasiet för döva och hörselskadade),
- upper secondary schools for pupils with severe physical disabilities (riksgymnasium för svårt rörelsehindrade), and
- education for adults with severe intellectual impairments (särvux).
More detailed information is provided in the European Commission's web portal Eurydice.
Policies in the context of formal education
The Swedish government has implemented a number of initiatives for educational support in order to reinforce equal opportunities in formal education. All major initiatives and national reforms are described in in the European Commissions web portal Eurydice.
- State grants for increased equity (Statsbidrag för ökad jämlikhet). The Government has in 2017 introduced a state grant in order to increase the proportion of pupils qualified for upper secondary school's national programmes. The National Agency for Education has the task of distributing the grant of total SEK 500 million (52 million euros) in 2017 to those schools that are situated in socio-economically most deprived neighbourhoods.
- Education during school holidays. Education providers will be required to provide education during school holidays for pupils in year 8 and 9 of compulsory school. The pupils concerned are those risking not to meet one or more goals of knowledge and especially those risking not to be eligible for a national programme in upper secondary school. The reform entered into force in 2017. The education providers will be compensated through an increase of SEK 60 million (6,3 million euros) in the general state grants received by the municipalities.
- Homework support. SEK 390 million (41 million euros) per year is set aside for homework support during 2016–2019. The basic amount is SEK 1 000 (105 euros) for each student who is offered to participate in the activities. In 2016, the Swedish National Agency for Education paid nearly SEK 269 million (28 million euros) to 2 211 schools and SEK 12 million (1,3 million euros) to 37 non-profit organisations to provide homework support. It is nearly ten times as much compared to 2015. In 2017, SEK 8 million (836 000 euros) were earmarked for non-profit organisations to provide homework support. An equal amount was reserved for the same purpose in 2016.
Newly arrived young people
In 2015, approximately 71 000 asylum-seeking children and young people arrived in Sweden. Of these, approximately 43 000 were between 13 and 18 years of age, according to the Swedish Migration Agency. In autumn 2015, the newly arrived young people represented nearly 8% of the population in the age group 16 to 18 years. In order to facilitate the efforts of schools to meet the needs of young foreign born, several initiatives target newly arrived pupils.
Assessing newly arrived pupils’ knowledge became mandatory for schools from 1 January 2016. The Swedish National Agency for Education got the task of providing support to schools, both general support, such as skills development, and targeted interventions to schools in particular need of support.
- Improve equal opportunities for newly arrived children To further improve equal opportunities for newly arrived children across Sweden the municipalities did in 2016 benefit from a significant economic contribution. Local governments received SEK 9,8 billion (1 billion euros) for better reception of asylum seekers and newly arrived. SEK 200 million (21 million euros) was allocated to the municipalities that have received a large proportion of asylum-seeking children over the last year. The Government also raised the school voucher to local authorities for asylum-seeking children by 50 per cent, which is an investment of SEK 393 million (41 million euros).
The government initiatives that are described in 6.3Preventing early leaving address social inclusion as well.
In formal education
In Sweden, citizenship education objectives are integrated into wider subjects or learning areas and it is also a cross-curricular objective where all teachers share responsibility for delivery. For more information on citizenship education please consult Euridice report Citizenship education at school in Europe 2017.
The subjects of social studies are the two central subjects when it comes to citizenship education. Both are foundation subjects, that will say a subject studied by all students in the upper secondary school.
According to its syllabus, teaching in the subject of social studies should aim at:
… ’helping students broaden, deepen and develop knowledge of people's living conditions based on different social issues. Political, social and economic interconnections today link together people from different societies throughout the world. Teaching should give students the opportunity to develop knowledge of issues relating to power, democracy, gender equality and human rights including the rights of children and young people in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.’
According to its syllabus, teaching in the subject of religion should aim at:
… ’helping students broaden, deepen and develop knowledge of religions, outlooks on life and ethical standpoints, and where applicable different interpretations of these. (...)Teaching should take as its starting point a view of society characterised by openness regarding lifestyle, outlooks on life, differences between people, and also give students the opportunity to develop a preparedness for understanding and living in a society characterised by diversity. (...)Teaching should lead to students developing knowledge of how people's moral attitudes can be understood on the basis of religions and outlooks on life. They should be given the opportunity to reflect on and analyse people's values and beliefs, and thus develop respect and understanding for different ways of thinking and living. Teaching should also give students the opportunity to analyse and assess how religion can relate, amongst other things, to ethnicity, gender, sexuality and socio-economic background.’
In teachers training
The National School Leadership Training Programme (rektorsprogrammet) is a state-regulated professional training programme for school heads, preschool managers and people with corresponding leadership positions. The leaderhip training programme plays a key role in organisations that are state-regulated and governed by the curriculum. The programme focuses on, among other things, the statutes that affect the rights of all children and pupils, and the responsibility of the school head to ensure these rights, and on pupils in need of special support (i behov av särskilt stöd) and pupils living with activity limitations (funktionsnedsättningar).
From 1 January 2017, new rules for schools on active measures against discrimination came into effect. The amendments in the Discrimination Act apply to pre-schools, schools and other activities regulated under the Education Act. The obligation to combat discrimination has been extended to cover all discrimination grounds, including gender, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation and age. An obligation to have policies and procedures in order to prevent harassments, including sexual harassments, has been introduced in the act.