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Preamble - Sweden

A fundamental change that took place in the Swedish school system in the early 1990s was the decentralisation of responsibility for basic compulsory- and upper secondary education. Consequently, the national government is now only responsible for setting the goals and framework for the educational system, while municipalities are responsible for organising and allocating resources to schools operating within their municipality. Finally, teachers and principals are responsible for pupils achieving the educational standards and goals set by the national government. Evaluation and quality control by individual schools and municipalities is emphasised as well as the overall duty of the national government to evaluate and follow up on the quality of the whole school system, on whether the national goals are achieved. 

The implementation of the new curricula, Lpo 94 for the basic compulsory school and Lpf 94 for upper secondary school, in 1994 marks the end of the old input controlled system and the beginning of the new output controlled school system. 

The new curriculum for the basic compulsory school puts strong emphasis on goals in terms of norms and values, such as democratic values and equal rights. The curriculum also contains goals related to knowledge. They are defined in terms of four dimensions: facts, proficiency, understanding and familiarity. The curriculum and syllabi contain two types of goals. Goals to strive towards, they give guidelines for the direction of the teaching. Goals to attain, describe knowledge and skills that the students should have developed by the end of the course. 

The management of schools by detailed rules, ordinances and other national regulations has shifted to management by objectives and results. The purpose was to provide freedom for educational development within education for children, youths and adults. Once the preschool received its own curriculum in 1998 it also became part of the education system under the management of the Government. The Parliament and the Government now share responsibility for education with the municipalities and individual responsible authorities.

The concept of how to secure quality in the Swedish school system can be described on several levels. On the national level, the Government and the National Agency for Education formulates national education policy and drafts guidelines for educational activities. The objectives are formulated in laws, ordinances and curricula. For the state education system there are also syllabi and timetables that reinforce the requirements for en equal education.

The municipalities are responsible for preschool activities, care for school children, as well as education for children, young people and adults. As responsible authorities for these activities they have to organise appropriate school activities for this purpose and provide the necessary resources. Through follow-up and evaluation the municipalities shall find out the extent to which national objectives have been achieved in activities and what needs improvement. An annual quality report shall make the quality system transparent for all interested parties and demonstrate continuous efforts to make improvements.

The National Agency for Education in Sweden is a government agency that shall contribute to quality assurance in education. Municipal and school quality reports shall constitute important supporting documentation for national assessments of equality and quality. The task of the National Agency for Education is also to ensure that the laws and ordinances are followed and that activities in municipalities and independent schools are developed so that pupils achieve national objectives. The National Agency for Education reports to the Parliament and the Government. 

The state education system for children and young people encompasses preschool classes (6-years old), compulsory school (7-16 year), upper secondary school (16-19 year), programmes for pupils with learning disabilities, special schools for deaf children or with hearing disabilities and Sami schools. 

Primary education is between the ages of 6 to 16 years old, covering preschool class and compulsory school. 

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