Examensarbete 15 högskolepoäng. The school in Sweden and Ireland - PDF

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Malmö högskola Lärarutbildningen SOL Examensarbete 15 högskolepoäng The school in Sweden and Ireland - A comparative study of the school system in Sweden and Ireland Skolan i Sverige och Irland - En studie

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Malmö högskola Lärarutbildningen SOL Examensarbete 15 högskolepoäng The school in Sweden and Ireland - A comparative study of the school system in Sweden and Ireland Skolan i Sverige och Irland - En studie som jämför skolsystemet i Sverige och Irland Felicia Holmstedt Lärarexamen Gs Lärarutbildning 270 hp Examinator: Anna Henningsson-Yousif Handledare: Haukur Viggosson 1 2 Abstract (English): This essay consists of four main parts. The first part aims to present some of the Swedish and Irish school systems giving explanations for different schools, levels, years and current school curricula and syllabuses. The second part shows the result of a research of the governing organs within the education system in each country. Responsibilities of departments, associations and councils are presented together with school policies and attempts for reform. The third part gives a presentation and a discussion on the relevant literature relating to the main school policies in Sweden and Ireland. The key words for this part are school development, school improvement and teacher leadership. In the fourth part of this essay I present the result of a conducted study with school teachers in Sweden and Ireland. Ten teachers, five from each country, working in primary and secondary schools, have answered questions concerning their job and their country s school policy. Their answers have been compared and contrasted in relation to part two and three in the essay, and also in relation to their nationalities. Finally a fifth part will summarise, conclude and reflect the essay as a whole. Abstract (svenska): Denna uppsats innehåller fyra huvuddelar. Den första delen ämnar att presentera delar av det svenska och irländska skolsystemet med förklaringar av nivåer, ålder och nuvarande läroplan och kursplaner. Den andra delen visar resultat av en undersökning gjord av de styrande organen inom utbildningsområdet in varje land. Ansvarsområden för departement, organisationer och verk presenteras tillsammans med motioner och reforminitiativ. Den tredje delen ger en presentation och en diskussion av relevant litteratur som relaterar till skolpolitiken i Sverige och på Irland. Nyckelorden i denna del är: skolutveckling, skolförbättring och lärarledarskap. I den fjärde delen av uppsatsen presenterar jag resultatet av en studie med lärare i Sverige och Irland. Tio lärare, fem från vart land, som jobbar på grundskola och gymnasium, har svarat på frågor angående deras jobb och deras lands skolpolitik. Deras svar har sedan jämförts med andra och tredje delen av uppsatsen samt med varandras nationaliteter. Slutligen ger en femte del en summering, sammanfattning och reflektion av arbetet i sin helhet. 3 4 Content Abstract 3 Content 5 1. The education system in Sweden and Ireland Purpose Background Historical and social context Introduction Two different systems? The Swedish school system The school curriculum of The Irish school system The school curriculum of Organisation and the work for development A presentation of the governing structure Introduction Who runs the school? The Swedish governing structure Institutions of influence The Irish governing structure Current projects for reform School improvement and teacher leadership A theoretical study Introduction The importance of knowledge and research School development The teachers views Interviews with teachers in Sweden and Ireland Introduction Reaching out in search of answers Method Result Getting to know the people in the spot light Final conclusion The system, the structure, the developments and effects Theory and reality, the readings and the interviews Reflection A student, an empty page Bibliography Appendix interview questions 29 5 6 1. The education system in Sweden and Ireland 1.1 Purpose This thesis aims to compare and contrast official perceptions of some parts of the school system in Sweden and Ireland today in order to see how the countries are dealing with school development and if they are following a common pattern. 1.2 Background historical and social context In The education system in England and Wales written by Paul Sharp and John Dunford a historical chapter begins the book with the argument that the roots of the present education system are firmly embedded in the past (1990, 1). I will there fore do the same in this thesis and give two brief presentations of the history of the education system in Sweden and Ireland. In 1842 the Swedish riksdag decided that a national school system was to be implemented in the country. After the Second World War society and its view of the school changed which led to school reform in Education was now recognized as a crucial driving force for economic and social progress in the modern society, progress that affected the individual and the society as a whole (Husén.1987:9). The reform brought forth a new nine year compulsory school system, the first Act of Education and school curricula with accompanying subject syllabuses. The documents were very detailed and stated the responsibilities of the schools, the purpose of education, the right for all children to an education and how the work in the schools should be carried out. Since 1962 the governing documents have been revised and altered and this has led to further school development and reform. Two decades ago, in the early 1990 s, the state decided to change the school quite radically. Until the late 1980 s it was virtually taken for granted in Sweden that state financed services such as health, education and care should be publicly run. In the years that followed, this view changed. Expectations of the positive consequences of competition and a market-orientated approach were behind the changes in regulation which made it possible for external players and agencies to operate public cervices (Schools like any other? 2006:6). The main trends within school development during this time are apparent in the school curricula of 1994 (Lpo94 and Lpf94). One of them is the de-centralisation of the school and the initiation of private schools. The other trend is the idea of a goal orientated 7 school system. These two factors implies that the state no longer control the school by telling it how to carry out its activities, as it had done before. Instead the municipalities and the individual schools are to decide how the work is to be done in order to reach the targets set by state. The municipalities have to reach the national targets after their own abilities in terms of time, economy and teacher availability (Säljö.2008:32). As new revised school curricula are set to be introduced in 2011, the curricula of 1994 are soon part of the historical context of school development in Sweden. Though the new curricula sets out give more freedom of control to the municipalities, the individual schools and the private schools, a governing document such as the Act of Education is still a constitution of law and there fore the school is still, as writer Gunnar Richardson describes it, working in a world of paragraphs (Richardson.2008:79). Ireland The national school system was established in Ireland in 1831 and opened the schools for the whole population. The national schools were originally meant to be mixed religion, or as they are called today multi-denominational. In practice this did not happen and virtually all schools in Ireland today are working under one church, the Catholic Church. There was no legislation governing how the schools were to be run. Instead they were receiving circulars and rules from relevant departments in the government (schooldays, 2010). In the years 1965 to 1975 Ireland experienced a period of major social, economic and cultural change as a vibrant national economy provided resources and motivations for significant reforms. New school buildings were built, libraries were improved, the student numbers increased and the educational research were flowering. These reforms were as Professor John Coolahan describes them; timely and necessary (Coolahan J. 2007:5). During this time the first primary school curriculum `Curaclam na Bunscoile (1971) was introduced, a document that would not be revised until the early 90 s. During the period of 1980 to 1990 the interest for school reform and development declined and teaching collages and departments in the area of education are forced to close down. However, in the 1990 s Ireland experienced an economic boom commonly known as the Celtic Tiger. During this period the school system saw development once again with new agencies in the fields of education, new school curriculum and a revised Act of Education. As 8 the country is currently experiencing an economic recession, which became apparent in 2007/2008, the Irish school system is one again struggling to produce constructive actions for improvement in the education system. 1.3 Introduction Two different systems During my final year in upper secondary school (gymnasiet) in Sweden I got the opportunity to visit a European country of choice and make myself familiar with the country s culturaland physical geography and identify the effects experienced by the country of the EU. By choice I picked Ireland and by coincidence I ended up in a small town situated in the south of the island. For two weeks I spent my days in a local school experiencing both differences and similarities in organisation and teaching methods. There are instant differences noticeable to the eye as a Swedish student enters an Irish school. Examples of these are the compulsory usage of school uniforms and, in my case coming from a Swedish upper secondary school, the range of ages of the pupils in the one school. It was clear that the divide that is so eminent in the Swedish school system, the step between the ninth year in the obligatory school to the first year in optional upper secondary school, was not as visual in the Irish schools. There are of course similarities and differences that are not as immediately evident in the landscape and some of these can be found in the governing documents such as the school curriculum and subject syllabuses. I will there fore give a presentation of the rules, years and levels of the school systems in both countries and introduce the current school curricula. I find it important to give a presentation of how the school system is structured in both countries in order to contrive sufficient knowledge to make a final comparison of the two countries education system. 1.4 The Swedish school system Grundskolan (primary and junior cycle) is compulsory and consists of nine levels which are divided in to three stages; låg- och mellanstadiet (primary school) and högstadiet (junior cycle/level), each stage comprises of three years. The children usually start at level one when they are six or seven years old and finish in level nine when they are sixteen. Grundskolan, which is regulated by the school curriculum Lpo94, aims to give access to further education in gymnasieskolan (senior level). Grades and similar ratings may not occur before level 8 according to the school curriculum. The grades that are currently used are G (pass), VG (pass 9 with distinction) and MVG (pass with excellent distinction). The final grade achieved in level nine is used for application to gymnasieskolan where a pass is required in the subjects of Swedish, mathematics and English to enter. Gymnasieskolan encompasses theoretical and practical training and is voluntary. Pupils choose between a large range of national- and local programs. Senior level schools are governed by the Act of Education and by the school curriculum Lpf 94 of the voluntary school forms. Higher education, such as collages and universities are voluntary and free of charge. Students at the colleges must however be a member of the Student Union and pay the so called compulsory student union membership fee. The Swedish school system: The school curriculum Lpo 94 The current school curriculum for the primary school (grundskolan) in Sweden is called Lpo 94 and was the start off point for a new school reform in Sweden. The document brought two new elements to the forth; the increase of municipality responsibility by the de-centralisation of the schools and a goal orientated school system. The de-centralisation of the school system means that the state no longer tells the schools how to attain the national goals. This is now up to each municipality and individual school. The goal orientated system consists of two sets of goals; goals to strive for and the goals to attain. The goals to strive towards specify the orientation of the work in the school and the goals to attain express the minimum levels pupils should have attained when leaving school. These two areas of change have had a great impact on the individual schools and on the teachers. The teachers and school management have to work to set up school plans on how the national goals and targets are to be reached and also continuously revise if the pupils are achieving these goals. The current curriculum has also set its framework after the new societal changes such as globalisation. This can be seen in the new focus on fostering skills and democratic values. 10 1.5 The Irish school system Attendance at full-time education is compulsory for all children between six and sixteen years of age in Ireland. The school system is divided between schools giving first level and second level education. Each level have its own school curriculum, setting targets, methods and values for the specific educational area. At the age of six the children start their first year in primary school. Primary school consists of six levels where the pupils are usually in the age of 11 or 12 when they leave for junior cycle which lies within the second level education. Junior cycle is part of the compulsory period of education and is usually taken by students between the ages of 12 and 15. Most students who begin junior cycle have spent eight years in primary school and the curriculum at junior cycle builds on the learning of the primary curriculum. An important aim of the junior cycle curriculum is to provide students with a broad and balanced programme of study across a wide range of curriculum areas in order to prepare them for transition to senior cycle education. At the end of junior cycle pupils have to pass a national exam to get the junior certificate that enables them to continue into senior cycle education. Senior cycle education in Ireland is voluntary and may be of two or of three year's duration. The difference is accounted for by students choosing to take an optional year called Transition Year, in the first phase of the senior cycle, before they follow the two-year Leaving Certificate programme. At the end of senior cycle pupils have to pass national exams in order to get their Leaving cert certificate. The Irish school system: The curricula of second lever education in Ireland are under current review and reorganisation. I will there fore concentrate on presenting the school curriculum for the primary school which was introduced in The primary school curriculum is a large document 11 consisting of 89 pages which are explaining and presenting aims, principles and features, key issues in primary education, specific aims and general objectives, curriculum areas, curriculum implementation in the schools and a chapter on children and learning. Considering that the last curriculum was introduced in 1971 it is understandable that this document is of such large size. The current curriculum is to incorporate the current educational thinking and the most effective pedagogic practices and is said to be designed to cater for the needs of children in the modern world (1999:6). The minister for education and science Micheál Martin means that the introduction of the new primary school curriculum is an exciting opportunity for change and renewal in the primary schools and describes it as a major departure in the history of primary education in Ireland (1999:6). The three general aims of primary education are to enable the child to live a full life as a child and to realise his or her potential as a unique individual, to enable the child to develop as a social being through living and cooperating with others and so contribute to the good of society and to prepare the child for future education and lifelong learning (1999:16). New elements to the curriculum is that the pupil should be an active agent in his or her own learning, that skills should facilitate the transfer of learning and that collaborating learning should feature in the learning process. Issues that the new curriculum had to take into account were the European- and global dimensions of modern living, respect for diversity and the importance of tolerance, the role of information and communication technologies in enhancing learning and catering for children with special needs (1999:17). Up till this point the Irish primary school curriculum has had many similarities with the Swedish curriculum of 94. However the Irish document continues by articulating not only the content to be learned or the outcomes to be achieved, but the wide range of approaches on how these may be achieved. In the teacher guidelines detailed advice on curriculum, organisational and classroom planning is offered for each subject area. It also gives a time framework which suggests minimum time for each of the curriculum areas. It is up to the individual teacher to plan for the implementation of the curriculum in the classroom. 12 2. Organisation and work for development A presentation of the governing school structure 2.1 Introduction Who runs the school? This essay was to focus on pedagogic leadership, discussing leadership matters affecting the role of the teacher. However I find that the issues that are affecting the pedagogic leadership and the role of the teacher, such as time, resources and access to further educational development, can be traced back to governmental actions. It has been argued that today s schools have a new guideline system, but still works within old patterns of hierarchy where the governing comes from the top and controls the bottom (Berg G, Scherp H-Å.2003:257). In an aim to get an insight on how the schools in Sweden and Ireland are run I will present the answer to two questions: - How is the school system structured? - What action have the different agencies taken to reform the school system? In order to answer these I have gained most of my information from the different bodies websites. This is where they describe themselves, their duties and origin, but also presents important documents and acts. 2.2 The Swedish governing structure Institutions of influence The responsibility for the educational system in Sweden is shared and divided between the Government, the Riksdag, the municipalities, the agencies within the field of education and the individual schools. However, it is the Government and the Riksdag that are the main decision makers and the Department of Education and Research are the main initiators of new school policies (Riksdagen, 2010). It is there fore important to keep in mind that the school policies and reforms are likely to be affected by the political colour in power at the time as well as by societal changes. The Act of Education and the curricula clearly states that the municipalities are entities responsible for pre-school classes, primary- and secondary schools. The Act also promotes the introduction of private schools. The independent schools are now a prominent feature in the Swedish school landscape. During the last two decades the school system in Sweden has become of a de-centralised character. This means that, though the state continues to set the targets and regulations for education, it is up to the municipalities and the individual schools 13 to make sure that these goals are reached and put into practice.
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