Sweden, which is known as the welfare state, was one of the first countries in Europe to implement an immigration policy. As a result, 1 of 5 people in Sweden have roots in another country. Sweden is known for its multiculturalism and high quality of living. Let’s explore Sweden’s educational style.
In 1998, kindergartens and daycares in Sweden merged to form preschools and came under the Ministry of Education’s jurisdiction. Previously, like in Japan, children with working mothers went to daycare and children with stay-at-home moms went to kindergarten. However, with the increase in working mothers the need for daycare has increased and the need for kindergarten has decreased. As a result, the government decided it was best to combine children under elementary school age and create preschools.
The target age for preschool is 1 year old to 6 years old. The majority of preschools have mixed age classes with a special class for 6 year olds to prepare them for elementary school life.
A main characteristic of preschools in Sweden is that the government provides a basic curriculum but leaves the detailed curriculum up to each school. This is because schools in larger cities and schools in the countryside are in different environments and can therefore provide different learning environments.
Also, the Swedish believe that all citizens have the right to enjoy nature and the government has included outdoor education in the standard curriculum. One example is “Mulle”, which is a outdoor program that takes place in the forest and allows children to experience nature and peer activities on a first-hand basis.
Sweden has a long history of accepting immigrants. As a result, currently 1 out of every 5 people in Sweden have roots in another country and they cover more than 200 nationalities.
To help these children integrate into the Swedish society as quickly as possible the government has implemented native language education. Children from the Middle East learn Arabic, children from Japan learn Japanese and all children spend 1-3 hours a week at school learning their native language at special schools set up by the government.
You may think that studying their native language is a strange way to help children integrate into the Swedish society. However, the child’s native language is a part of their identity and sense of pride. Children who have studied their native language do better at school than their counterparts who have not studied their native language.
At preschool, children learn about different cultures through play and vocabulary from their native language can play the role of a bridge between their country’s culture and the Swedish society.
Since Swedish early education is based on the German educator Frobel’s concept that play is the best way to encourage children’s development, there is a large emphasis on play rather than studying. This does not mean that children play amongst themselves and teachers watch on the sidelines. Instead, teachers are required to come up with age-appropriate play activities that encourage their development. This will allow children to learn through play and teachers to research based on what they see. In Swedish schools for older children, teachers and parents tend to value the learning process rather then the final grades. In Sweden, rather then working about getting a better grade than one’s peers, students are encouraged to think carefully about the issue and come up with their own findings and ideas from a young age.