Internationella Engelska Skolan, IES, is the largest free school organization in compulsory education (grundskolor) in Sweden, with 24,000 students and over 170,000 registrations in our queue. Our students receive above national average results in the national tests as well as make academic progress with us over time. This is regardless of social or academic background. 38% of our students have a foreign background compared with 24% in municipal schools. In the face of Sweden’s educational challenges, we can, and want to, be a part of the solution.
The latest Skolverket statistics show that municipal schools are more generous in grade setting than IES and other free schools in the subjects of Swedish and Mathematics. Even Stockholm City’s 2017 diagnostic test in Mathematics showed that our schools are more restrictive in grade setting. We take Skolverket’s statistics very seriously because they are the country’s responsible administration, and together with Skolinspektionen, secure quality and correct grade setting for Sweden’s students.
In a recent report titled, “Trust-Based Evaluation in a Market Orientated School System” it was claimed that IES and other free schools have higher grade inflation than municipal schools. The report is based on an alternative view of the facts and instead of looking at the % of students gaining a higher final grade when compared to national test result, focuses on grade points instead. A student achieving a C at national test and subsequently B at final grade level will have increased by 2.5 grade points. However, a student achieving an F in the national test and subsequently an E at final grade will have increased by 10 grade points. Many of our students at the time of the national tests will be on F-E borderline and some may fail. Our teachers work hard with these students up until the point of grading so many will eventually pass. In 2017, 95% of our students with lower educated parents were eligible for further studies, compared with just 78% at national level. The report also compares national tests in Mathematics with performance in other subjects such as Home Economics. These alternative conclusions are being used as an argument to ban for profit education providers.
We also perceive the current grading guidelines as being too open to interpretation. We therefore suggest that Skolverket create more structured guidelines and processes to secure a more correct and equitable grading system. The national tests provide solid grounds for the assessment of student knowledge. We would like to see tests in more subjects and held more regularly. We also believe that such tests should be corrected centrally.
We hope, and believe, that a serious and honest dialogue will take Sweden back to a top position within education. We can, and want to, be a part of the solution for the challenges the Swedish education system faces. We can achieve this by taking part in dialogue to generate common solutions, develop competent school leaders, open further schools and enable more children to attend our schools.
Together, we need to solve the shortage of teachers. Sweden will lack 80,000 teachers by 2030, if we don’t react now. IES, and for example, Skellefteå municipality, will strengthen their teaching body by recruiting qualified international teachers, but more must be done. The greater solution lies in making the profession more attractive. Here we would welcome taking part in a deeper discussion.
Let us together, contribute to our children’s future and combine the positive forces the municipal and free schools stand for, so that our children will receive a better education. Let us ground our discussions in honesty, and with a starting point in Parliament’s and Skolverket’s decisions and guidelines.