Country information for Sweden - Legislation and policy
The Swedish education system is decentralised and managed by overall goals and rules. All decisions concerning the implementation of the Education Act and the curriculum are taken within the local self-government of the municipalities. There is therefore great variation among the municipalities. (Source: IECE Country Survey Questionnaire, p. 16)
Under the Ministry of Education and Research, there are three national agencies: the Swedish National Agency for Education, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate and the National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools. (Source: IECE Country Survey Questionnaire, p. 15).
There are three main topics on the recent political school agenda: raising achievement for all pupils, education for the large number of immigrant children and young people in Sweden, and an offer for all teachers to develop skills regarding special needs and disabilities. During 2016 and 2017, a school commission has been working on a broad whole-school national level to recommend actions that will enhance results for all pupils. (Source: Raising the Achievement of All Learners in Inclusive Education – Country Report, p. 14)
The basic principle guiding all Swedish education, from childcare to the transition period, is access to equivalent education for all, according to the Swedish Education Act (Skollagen 2010:800, 4 §). This means that pupils in need of special support should not be treated or defined as a group that is any different from other pupils and their rights are not stated separately. The obligation for schools to attend to all pupils’ needs is, however, emphasised. Social services, schools and healthcare are obliged to collaborate for children at risk. The social services have main responsibility for ensuring that the collaboration comes about (stipulated in the Social Services Act, the Health and Medical Services Act and the Police Act). (Source: IECE Country Survey Questionnaire, p. 15).
Children with learning disabilities can attend the compulsory school for pupils with learning disabilities as an alternative to the compulsory school. Pupil with deaf or blind can attend the special schools. For pupils in need of special support in compulsory school, an action plan of provision must be drawn up. The school’s head is responsible for decisions in making an investigation of the needs before setting up the action plan. The teachers, in consultation with the learner themselves, their parents and specialist support teachers, usually draw up the plan. This plan, which identifies needs and provision to meet them, is continuously evaluated and progress and changes of solutions are possible (Skollagen 2010:800, 9 §).
Pupils in need of special support have the right to specialist provision. All education corresponds as far as possible to the national curricula, but with the emphasis on meeting individual learning needs. In a few circumstances, this provision is offered in special settings. Three national and five regional state-run special schools are available for pupils with visual impairment combined with additional disabilities (MDVI), deafness or hearing impairment combined with learning disabilities or severe speech and language disorders.
All pupils have the right to choose their school – whether municipal or independent – as long as the school can demonstrate that it can meet the pupils’ educational needs.
The curricula for pre-primary, compulsory and upper-secondary education are partly consistent in order to make these activities a homogenous system. There is a special curriculum for pupil with learning disabilities. The National Agency for Education decides on the syllabuses for the special school and the school for learning disabilities.
The curricula state the leading values, tasks and goals for the activities, but do not state the means to reach them. The organisation of childcare and school activities is the responsibility of the local authorities and they should therefore ensure the possibilities of reaching the goals and following the curricula. The pedagogical staff of each unit is responsible for the pedagogical means and specific organisation of the operation.
The Curriculum for the Pre-school Lpfö 98, revised in 2010, covers the following areas:
- Norms and values
- Development and learning
- Influence of the child
- Pre-school and home
- Co-operation with recreation centres.
- Norms and values
- Responsibility and influence of pupils
- School and home
- Transition and co-operation
- The school and the surrounding world
- Assessment and grades
- Responsibility of the school head.
The upper-secondary school curriculum covers:
- Norms and values
- Responsibility and influence of pupils
- Educational choices – employment and social life
- Assessment and grades
- Responsibility of the head.
The Curriculum for the upper-secondary school is available in English.
Early years education
The Education Act states that children are entitled to Early Childhood Education and Care from the age of 1 to 12 (after entering compulsory school, this takes the form of recreation centres) if their parents work, study or are unemployed. Early Childhood Education and Care is a separate school form and its activities are regarded as education and teaching. Teaching takes place under the supervision of preschool teachers, but there may also be other staff to promote the child's development and learning. Early Childhood Education and Care is regulated by the Education Act and the curriculum. Activities should be based on individual needs. Children in need of special support should receive care related to their needs (Skollagen 2010:800, 3–7 §).
All childcare, pre-primary activities, leisure time activities, compulsory education and upper-secondary education have been incorporated under the National Agency for Education.
The nine-year basic compulsory school level, which includes compulsory schools, compulsory schools for learning disabilities, Sami schools, and special schools, is for all children between 7 and 16 years of age, but children can start school at the age of 6. The municipalities also have a duty to organise pre-primary activities from the age of 5. In most municipalities, these activities are integrated in the compulsory school.
Six-year-olds have the right to start compulsory school if their parents so wish. A new law 2018 stipulates obligatory school for all children at six years of age. Children with learning disabilities can attend the compulsory school for pupils with learning disabilities as an alternative to the compulsory school. The compulsory school for learning disabilities consists of nine years of schooling. And within the school there is a special orientation called the training school. This is intended for pupils who have a lack of knowledge in all or parts of compulsory schooling for pupils with learning disabilities in some subjects. Children who due to a functional impairment or for other special reasons cannot attend the compulsory school or the compulsory school for learning disabilities can attend the special school if they:
- are deaf and blind or have visual impairments and other functional impairments,
- in cases other than in 1 are deaf or hearing impaired, or have a severe speech disorder.
Upper-secondary schools – gymnasiet – are not compulsory, but almost all pupils attend. Schools are free of charge and there are no fees for educational materials, food or healthcare. Upper-secondary school pupils have the same right to special support as compulsory school pupils.
Upper secondary school for individuals with learning disabilities (USSILD) is a free, voluntary type of school that young people with developmental disorders or acquired brain injuries can choose to attend once they have completed compulsory school for pupils with learning disabilities. USSILD consists of national programmes, individual programmes and programmes that diverge from the national programme structure.
There are a total of nine national upper secondary school programmes. Each programme spans four years and consists of USSILD foundation subjects, programme-specific subjects, more in-depth programme-specific courses and assessed coursework.
For pupils in need of special support, technical aid is available from the regional counties and the state provides adapted teaching materials. Schools and teachers consult local resource centres, which in turn consult the Swedish National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools.
Upper-secondary pupils can choose from 18 national programmes, according to their interests. Most pupils with disabilities attend these national programmes. Pupils who are deaf or have hearing disabilities can attend special upper-secondary schools. Pupils with physical disabilities also have this opportunity.
For pupils who are not eligible to apply to a national upper-secondary school programme, five introductory programmes are available that provide individually-adapted education to meet their needs and offer clear educational alternatives. The introductory programmes are intended to help pupils establish themselves in the labour market and to serve as the best possible foundation for continued education. Each school is responsible for setting up an individual study plan for these pupils, while it is the responsibility of the pupil’s local municipality to offer the introductory programmes. In addition, a pupil in a compulsory school for pupils with learning disabilities has the right to work introduction or an individual alternative, if the pupil wishes to take a particular programme and the municipality feels they have the prerequisites for it. After the learner has completed education in an introductory programme, it is the school head’s responsibility to issue a school-leaving certificate that shows what education the learner has received.
It is the duty of the municipalities to offer upper-secondary education for all pupils, including those with severe learning disabilities.
Measures against discrimination
From 1 January 2017, a Discrimination Act introduced new rules on active measures against discrimination. The new rules apply to pre-primary, school and other activities regulated under the Education Act and form a part of discrimination law. The active measures against discrimination contained in Chapter 3 of the Discrimination Act stipulate actions against seven grounds of discrimination:
- Gender identity or gender expression
- Religion or other beliefs
- Sexual orientation
One form of discrimination concerning disability is lack of accessibility. Lack of accessibility means an activity does not take reasonable accessibility measures to ensure that a person with disabilities is in a comparable situation with non-disabled people.
Lack of accessibility was introduced in the Discrimination Act 2015 due to Sweden’s commitment to comply with the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006 and has applied in Sweden since 2009.
Employers and schools now have greater responsibility to work with prevention and promotion to combat discrimination and work for equal rights and opportunities. The new law will help schools and pre-schools to prevent discrimination more effectively with the participation of learners and professionals. The work will therefore be active and affect the mindset of the participants. (Source: Legislation Updates 2017, pp. 28–29)
Last updated 14/02/2018