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 made within the local self-governing 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:
- Swedish National Agency for Education
- Swedish Schools Inspectorate
- National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools. (Source: IECE Country Survey Questionnaire, p. 15).
The Government gave the Swedish National Agency for Education, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate, the National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools and the Swedish Institute for Educational Research a new assignment in 2020. The assignment is based on the school commission results and has three aims:
- Building a quality framework. Gathering knowledge about crucial factors for effective school development in order to increase quality and equality in schools. The quality framework builds on three main priorities: Raising achievement, quality in teaching and equity in education.
- Developing monitoring mechanisms. Identifying milestones and indicators that can be used for monitoring and that will form the basis of system analysis.
- Providing content for dialogue. The authorities should analyse and summarise critical success factors for school development and make suggestions on what should be included in a future dialogue between the government and school principals.
According to the Swedish Education Act (Skollagen 2010:800, 4 §), the basic principle guiding all Swedish education, from childcare to the transition period, is access to equivalent education for all. This means that pupils in need of special support should not be treated differently or defined as a group that is any different from other pupils. Their rights are not stated separately, but the obligation for schools to attend to all pupils’ needs is 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 is enacted (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 compulsory schools for pupils with learning disabilities as an alternative to mainstream compulsory schools. Deaf or blind pupils can attend special schools. An action plan of provision must be drawn up for pupils in need of special support in compulsory schools. The school head is responsible for investigating pupils’ needs before setting up the action plans. Teachers usually draw up the plans, in consultation with learners, their parents and specialist support teachers. The plans, which identify needs and provisions to meet them, are continuously evaluated. 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 an 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 Convention on the Rights of the Child
The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child was incorporated into Swedish law on 1 January 2020. A number of measures for the induction process and other legislative proposals to strengthen the rights of the child in Swedish legislation were introduced.
The curricula for pre-primary, compulsory and upper-secondary education are partly consistent in order to make them homogenous. There is a special curriculum for pupils with learning disabilities. The National Agency for Education decides on the syllabi for special schools and schools for pupils with learning disabilities.
The curricula state the leading values, tasks and goals for the activities, but do not state how to reach them. The organisation of childcare and school activities is the responsibility of the local authorities who should therefore ensure learners and schools can reach the goals and follow the curricula. Pedagogical staff in each unit are responsible for the pedagogical means and specific organisation of the operation.
The Curriculum for the Pre-school Lpfö 18, revised in 2019, 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 Curriculum for the upper-secondary school (available in English) covers:
- Norms and values
- Responsibility and influence of pupils
- Educational choices – employment and social life
- Assessment and grades
- Responsibility of the head.
All childcare, pre-primary activities, leisure time activities, compulsory education and upper-secondary education are incorporated under the National Agency for Education.
Early years education
The Education Act states that children are entitled to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) from the age of 1 to 7 if their parents work, study or are unemployed. ECEC is a separate school form and its activities are regarded as education and teaching. Teaching takes place under the supervision of pre-school teachers, but there may also be other staff who promote the child’s development and learning.
ECEC 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 §).
The nine-year basic compulsory school level is for all children between 7 and 16 years of age, but children can start school at the age of 6. It includes compulsory schools, compulsory schools for learning disabilities, Sami schools and special schools. The municipalities also have a duty to organise pre-primary activities from the age of 5. In most municipalities, these activities are integrated into the compulsory school.
Six-year-olds have the right to start compulsory school if their parents wish. A law introduced in 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 mainstream compulsory school.
The compulsory school for pupils with learning disabilities consists of nine years of schooling. Within the school there is a special orientation called the training school. This is intended for pupils who lack 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 mainstream compulsory school or compulsory school for pupils with learning disabilities can attend special schools if they:
- are deaf and blind or have visual impairments and other functional impairments;
- 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.
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.
Upper-secondary school for individuals with learning disabilities (USSILD) is a free, voluntary school. Young people with developmental disorders or acquired brain injuries can choose to attend it 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 nine national USSILD programmes in total. Each programme spans four years and consists of USSILD foundation subjects, programme-specific subjects, more in-depth programme-specific courses and assessed coursework.
Pupils who are not eligible to apply to a national upper-secondary school programme can follow one of five introductory programmes 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. The pupil’s local municipality is responsible for offering the introductory programmes.
Pupils in compulsory schools for pupils with learning disabilities have the right to work introductions 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, the school head is responsible for issuing a school-leaving certificate that shows the 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, the Discrimination Act introduced new active measures against discrimination. The measures apply to pre-primary and compulsory education and other activities regulated under the Education Act . The measures form part of discrimination law. The active measures against discrimination in Chapter 3 of the Discrimination Act stipulate actions against seven types of discrimination:
- Gender identity or gender expression
- Religion or other beliefs
- Sexual orientation
One form of disability discrimination is lack of accessibility. Lack of accessibility means an activity does not take reasonable measures to ensure that a person with disabilities is in a comparable situation with a non-disabled person.
Lack of accessibility was introduced in the Discrimination Act 2015 due to Sweden’s commitment to comply with the 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 25/03/2020