Headlines 2014

How the teaching profession was dismantled


In a brand new book Johan Wennström, IFN, uncovers how politicians from both left and right undermined the professional pride and independence of Swedish schoolteachers for decades. According to the author, this has contributed to both the decline of the teaching profession in Sweden and the drop in knowledge among Swedish students. At a seminar in Stockholm, the book was discussed by Anna Ekström, Director General of the National Agency for Education, and Jonas Vlachos, an educational researcher affiliated with IFN and Stockholm University.


In the picture from left Cecilia Garme, (moderator), Johan Wennström, Anna Ekström and Jonas Vlachos. Photo: Karl Gabor.


“Teachers are crucial to schools' performance” said Anna Ekström, and explained that half of today's teachers regret their career choice. She clarified that teachers must be given the opportunity and responsibility to do their job well.

When teachers lose their professional pride and freedom, schools are governed by controversial business principles, i.e. New Public Management. Instead of schools relying on teachers to do their jobs, teachers find themselves supervised and incentivized," says Johan Wennström. In his new book, he shows how both the left and the right, from the 1960s and onwards, have shaped today's schools system - and bear responsibility for its negative results.

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Johan Wennström’s presentation of the book - Lärare utan frihet: När vänstern och högern kidnappade lärarprofessionen. Photo: Karl Gabor.


Following Johan Wennström’ s presentation, Jonas Vlachos commented on the book and explained that both the left and the right have had problems positioning schooling in the social structure : “My favorite explanation is that the established, distinct boundary for the pass/fail grades has hampered teachers' autonomy most".

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The seminar audience was eloquent and renowned. In this photo Barbara Bergström, founder of the International English School, is asking the panel a question to. Photo: Karl Gabor.


“Research shows that recruitment of teachers worked well until the mid-1990s”, said Vlachos, and he went on to explain that we really do not know the causes of why this changed. Anna Ekström emphasized the need to look into the requirements for teacher eligibility.“Today, an appallingly low percentage of teachers mainly in science, but also modern languages, are not eligible to be teachers. As for teachers' autonomy, she said that a greater balance is needed between control and autonomy: “This is important as researchers have shown a positive correlation between teachers' ways of teaching and improved learning."

The seminar in SVT Forum, Swedish television

Johan Wennström's presentation (in Swedish)

Read (in Swedish) Johan Wennström's article in Dagens Nyheter

Read the book

If you would like to buy the book please contact info@samhallsforlaget.se



Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Grevgatan 34 - 2 fl, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden | Phone: +46-(0)8-665 45 00 | info@ifn.se