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Equal Access to Education – National Roundtable for Sweden 2019

CONTEXT Equal access to education in the world’s richest countries appears to be different for children within the same school system. In Sweden, many children especially those coming from socioeconomic vulnerable areas, enter the education system being challenged by systemic dominant discourse, and consequently remain further behind in experiencing all the advantageous outcomes of education that could favour them to reach their full potential for a better quality of life. Current educational policies and practices seemingly do little to reduce the gap between them and their peers. They consequently drop further behind due to the current educational policies and practices, rather than reduce the gap between them and their peers. According to UNICEF report ‘’Unfair Start’’, equal opportunity has dropped significantly for children in Sweden to reach their full potential, to pursue their interests and to develop their talents and skills. The report focuses on educational inequalities in 41 of the world’s richest countries, all of which are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and/or the European Union (EU). The report examines inequalities across childhood – from access to preschool to expectations of completing secondary education – and explores in depth the relationships between educational inequality and related factors such as gender, parents’ socio-economic and educational background and the design of the school system. Besides, the OECD report “Equity in education” shows that the lack of equality is a problem for school systems around the world. The report points out, among other things, that the proportion of adults with lower educational levels or qualifications compared to their parents is 17 percent in Sweden, which is lower than the average in the OECD. According to an equality measure based on seven factors, the Swedish schooling system has deteriorated within five. When it comes to how much a child’s social background affects the feeling of belongingness at school, Sweden is one of six countries where development deteriorates – the proportion of students from resource-poor homes who feel they belong in school has decreased from 81 percent to 66 percent, which is below the OECD cut. At the same time Sweden is facing a national shortage of school buildings due to rapid population growth in recent years. At the beginning of 2017, Sweden’s population passed 10 million and it is anticipated that it will reach 11 million in 2028. A large part of the population growth occurs at school age and according to Statistics Sweden’s forecast, in ten years there will be 107,000 more at school age, 6-15 years. For example, many school buildings are more than 40 years old, in poor conditions, and not suitably adapted to offer adequate learning and teaching environments. Inadequate environments negatively impact student learning, performance, outcomes and their overall educational experiences. The school staff are invariably included in this problematic situation. The population growth and inadequate facilities may result in a shortage of pre- and primary schools in Sweden. According to Magdalena Andersson, Minister of Finance, 1400 new preschools and schools will be needed by 2026. Shortage of school buildings affects the whole of Sweden, both large cities as well as smaller urban areas. The shortage of school buildings in Sweden need to be acted upon in the years to come. Caution should be taken when investing state funds to meet the higher demand for building these new learning and teaching environments. Poor decisions and incompetence can potentially lead to lowered equitable opportunities of children’s quality educational experiences in Swedish schools, especially for those children already marginalized.