[Posted on 30 May, 2017 by Ida Lindblad]
Attending school is both a right and an obligation for all Swedish children. For some children, the school years come with great challenges; being subjected to the things you struggle most with and at the same time, potentially failing, every day. What are the consequences of this? The National Board of Health and Welfare concluded in 2010 that failure in school causes major risk of future psychosocial problems.
Students lacking in executive functions, i.e. difficulties with regard to planning and organising, as well as attention and working stamina, clearly have problems reaching the standardised education goals. Schools also place increasing demands on abilities like analysing, drawing conclusions and generalising. Reaching the standardised education goals requires both well-functioning executive functions and good intellectual ability.
Upon discovering that the introduction of grades in year 6 of school had failed to achieve higher rate of goal achievement, and that the students who had failed to reach the education goals in year 6 had once again done so in year 9, The Minister for Education concluded in a statement in Svenska Dagbladet (October 11, 2016) that the schools had not given these students the proper support that they needed. The statement did not convey anything about how the students’ respective individual circumstances influence their ability to reach today’s educational goals. Neither was there any mention that the schools need to adjust and individually tailor their demands with regard to those students who are lacking in executive or intellectual abilities.
According to The Swedish National Agency for Education (2017), schools need to implement a research-based work method. Knowledge about children’s development of intellectual and executive abilities must factor into the design of the curriculum. Educators must have the opportunity to support students with executive and/or intellectual difficulties so that they can be given the tools allowing them, to whatever extent possible, to obtain the knowledge measured by e.g. PISA surveys.
Succeeding in school must be an opportunity afforded to all children – and it must be an obligation for schools/the Department of Education to provide a curriculum enabling tailored education, so that all students may succeed according to their own abilities. As it stands, there is currently a large group of children around the country who are doomed to fail right from the start.