When I was in Sweden last week, I had the honor of meeting Lotta Edholm, Stockholm’s Vice Mayor for schools and education. Despite the fact that Sweden, along with other Scandinavian countries, has over time performed well in PISA and other measures of education effectiveness, Edholm is dealing with many of the same issues faced by school leaders around the world. Sweden has seen a drop in scores, and of particular concern is flagging math and science performance.
“We are restoring the educational system,” Edholm told me, “with more lessons in mathematics at an earlier age. We’re also changing education for teachers.” Edholm acknowledges that technology isn’t necessarily solving problems. “Sometimes it’s really changing the way children learn and teachers teach,” she says, “but sometimes it doesn’t matter at all.”
Edholm is a supporter of the Math Commission, which Microsoft Sweden has started with members from the private sector, teachers and universities, so I also asked her about the growing role of business in shaping education reform. Edholm told me, “The companies in Sweden have been a bit lazy, leaving education for the politicians and school systems to handle. Now they are more aware that they have to take steps into the school system themselves.”
In today’s Daily Edventure, Edholm shares her thoughts on Sweden’s efforts to reform education, and her concerns about a continued education divide, where some schools and students perform well and others don’t, often based on the economic and educational background of parents (here’s her blog in Swedish). This issue is obviously a factor in many countries, and it’s interesting that even progressive Sweden is not immune.
About Lotta Edholm
Lotta Edholm is Vice Mayor of Schools and Education for the City of Stockholm. In that capacity she leads the work of the Council of Education, whose responsibilities encompass pre-school, elementary school and secondary school. She is head of the Liberal Party in the city of Stockholm and group leader of the party in the City Council. In that capacity she represents the party in all matters in the city. Lotta Edholm has been Vice Mayor of Schools and Education since 2006.
Lotta Edholm was a member of the Swedish parliament 1992-1994. Before that she held the position of chair of the Liberal Youth of Sweden, the youth association of the Liberal party, 1989-1991. She was assistant Vice Mayor of Schools and Education for the city of Stockholm 1998-2002 and Vice Mayor for the opposition in 2005.
Lotta Edholm was born and raised in Västerås, west of Stockholm. She holds a Bachelor degree in Political Science from the University of Stockholm.
To learn more:
Divisions, mayor and vice mayors in Stokholm
Twelve politicians in the City of Stockholm are full-time employees. They are the Mayor and the Vice Mayors who are appointed by the City Council. The majority has a Mayor and seven Vice Mayors, and the opposition has four Vice Mayors. A Vice Mayor in Stockholm can be likened to a Municipal Commissioner in other Swedish municipalities.
The Mayor and each majority Vice Mayor is head of a Division, i.e. a department with responsibility for a particular area of operation such as the Schools and Education Division. The Head of the Schools and Education Division is also the Chair of the Board of Education.
The schools bear a major responsibility. We want to make sure that all students, regardless of their social background or home situation, receive a good education. Students should be able to experience school as a joyful, rewarding workplace. The time they spend at school should be valuable, both in the present and as a stepping stone to the future. Students are entitled to safety, security, peace and quiet, both in the classroom and during breaks.
Each school should stimulate the curiosity of its students, who should have the opportunity to assume a growing responsibility for their learning and personal development. All graduates should possess solid knowledge and strong self-esteem. Schools should give all students the chance to build the future of their choice. Students should obtain a stable foundation regardless of their subsequent educational or career decisions.
International perspectives are essential to preparing young people for the era of globalisation, which is characterised by frequent communication across national and cultural borders. International experiences provide people with social and cultural skills, fostering a greater understanding of human diversity. For instance, a number of secondary schools in the City of Stockholm collaborate with businesses, schools and institutions of higher education in China and India. Such efforts offer additional exposure to cultures, languages, global conditions, entrepreneurship and the international labour market. Students who are particularly interested have the opportunity to spend time in China as part of an exchange or trainee programme.
To ensure systematic growth and development of the school system we promotes links between research and instruction. Relevant research findings are evaluated and utilised. The schools can propose specific areas and questions for further research. An explicit goal is for a greater percentage of teachers to have Master’s or doctoral degrees. Their skills are to help the education system improve, grow and develop over the long term.
Workplace training, which takes place in the schools proper, is part of teacher’s training. Integral to the programme is a degree project, which is often linked to a research and development effort that seeks to improve the education system. Among the strategic subject areas are language development, mathematics and science & technology.
The Stockholm Summit is an international conference arranged by the Stockholm Board of Education, National Agency for Education, Swedish Association of School Principals and Directors of Education, and others. The conference offers principals, directors of education, researchers and educators around the world the opportunity to share their experiences of national education systems in a global context, leadership in a changing world, the challenges of globalisation, quality assessment, tools of change and cultural encounters.
Our vision can be summed up as follows:
Our schools will be the best in the world for each student
All students will have chance to choose a school that fulfills their individual interests and needs. Schools will adapt their orientation, subject matter, teaching methods, organisation, etc., to the needs and abilities of their particular students.
Our schools will offer world-class education
All students will be able to maximise their potential, and the education they receive will lead to further studies, business opportunities or employment. Our schools will produce a well-educated citizenry. The ability to communicate in native and foreign languages, mathematical proficiency, technical and scientific knowledge, and computer skills are important ingredients of life in modern society.
Our schools will prepare students to be citizens of the world
The Education Act stresses democracy, citizenship, equal opportunity and tolerance – all of which are vital in today’s world. It is also essential that Stockholm students obtain the knowledge and tools they need to live in the era of globalisation. The schools serve as a powerful engine of community and regional growth and development.
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