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Teaching History in Sweden


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#1 MAC

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Posted 21 October 2003 - 06:09 PM

Teaching History in Sweden

The Swedish public school system is made up of 9 years of compulsory education and 3 years of upper secondary education. Upper secondary education is free and a non-compulsory form of school, but almost all compulsory school students continue to upper secondary school.

Upper secondary education is divided into 17 national 3-year programs. Every program comprises 2500 upper secondary credits (from the beginning a credit was fairly equal to an instruction hour, but now this part is negotiable…). The guaranteed number of instruction hours varies from program to program; from 2180 to 2430 hours. All national programs include eight core subjects; English, the Arts, Physical Education and Health, Mathematics, General Science, Social Studies, Swedish (or Swedish as a Second Language) and Religion. These core subjects add up to 750 credits.

History is not one of the core subjects which gives the effect that half of the students at upper secondary level never study history as a separate subject! Only 3 of the 17 programs offer History as an obligatory subject; Natural Science (subdivided Mathematics and Computer Sciences, Environmental Science, Natural Sciences), Social Science (subdivided Economics, Liberal Arts, Social Sciences, Languages) and Arts (subdivided Arts and Design, Dance, Music and Theater). All programs offer a little bit of 20th Century History within the core subject Social Studies – “Historical events and personalities in the 20th century”. A few schools could also offer History as an individual choice.

History as a subject is divided into three different courses. Each course comprises 100 credits. According to the national curriculum;
History A builds on the compulsory school course and provides context and background to history from ancient times up to the present, as well as providing the opportunity for focusing in detail on specific areas that relate to the pupils’ own needs and interests. Events, phenomena and persons are a central and indispensable part of the education. The course should be adapted to the study orientation chosen by the pupil.
History B builds on History A and is adapted to the pupils’ orientation. In-depth studies and thematic work should increase the pupils’ skills and critical abilities. Historical studies are broadened through comparative studies over time and distance. History B is common to the Cultural and Social science branches of the Social Science Program (which has the effect that only a minority studies this more in-depth course - authors comment).
History C provides a deeper understanding of critical sources and views of history. The course builds on History A. History C is an optional course (which has the effect that only a minority of the minority studies the C course - authors comment)

National Curriculum: The national curriculum only describes the general content of each course. Each upper secondary school should make and be able to present their own interpretation of the national curriculum in each subject (and course). There is no formal hinder for a teacher to focus on one aspect of history, ex. feminism, Gustaphus Adolphus etc... as long as the teacher has made the pupil familiar with the ”fundamental features of historical development”.

Examination: There is no general examination. The grade is based on the work completed over the year and the teachers’ interpretation of the quality of that work. The pupil can receive the following grades; non Pass (IG), Pass (G), Pass with Distinction (VG) and Pass with Special Distinction (VG). Each teacher is solely responsible for the grading of his/her class. Inspections of the subject (or the schools) are very uncommon.

History education: The education of History teachers at upper secondary education has gone through several changes the last 20 years. A few years ago you could either be affiliated with the Teachers Education Program through the 4-5 years the program lasted or just add 1 year of theory and general teachers training (pedagogy) after studying your topics at the separate university departments. Today going through the Teachers Education Program is required.

Today a teacher of upper secondary school studies 4.5-5.5 years. 1.5 years is common to all becoming teachers whether intending to teach at pre-school, compulsory or upper secondary level. During the other 3-4 years the candidate specializes. After finishing the program a degree is awarded (a diploma where the specialization is indicated). The degree is translated as ”Master of Education for the Upper Secondary School”.

Teaching hours: Until two years ago a Swedish teacher of upper secondary education was required to teach 507 hours a year. Today a teacher of upper secondary education is required to teach between 500-750 credits (during the school year - 40 weeks, the teacher in upper secondary school should work 1360 ”credits”. Local individual agreements decide how many hours these 1360 credits comprise). Being the Head of a Department does not necessarily effect the teaching hours. Several Heads teach as much as their colleagues. It’s the agreement with the school that regulates the hours. Fairly common is 16-18 hours of teaching each week.

Class sizes: The average size of a class in History A varies. At our school the size is between 32-35 pupils. It’s very rare with classes under 30 pupils!

Course hours: All subjects are (as mentioned before) divided into courses. They comprise 50, 100, 150 or 200 credits. The hours of each course also differ depending on the local agreement, so the History A course can be 90 hours long in one school while it’s 75 hours long in another... Today it’s common that a History A course covers one school year with approx. 2.5 hours each week.

History in decline: The subject History at upper secondary school has gone through a negative development in Sweden the last 30-35 years. Before we got the 17 national programs the Swedish upper secondary education was divided into three or two year programs. The three year programs were preparation for Higher Education and therefore had a more theoretical profile. There were 5 different choices among the three year programs - Humanities, Social Science, Economy, Natural Science and Technical program (this last program had a fourth year...). In 1971 Humanities and Social Science studied 248 hours of History - spread over two years. In 1993 these hours were cut to 190 hours per year and the last two years they have been cut to 75-90 hours per year. In 1971 Economy, Natural Science and the Technical Program studied 149 - 99 hours of History per year. In 1993 these hours were cut to 75-90 hours and the last years History has been dropped on the Technical Program. A suggestion about making History obligatory for all programs (a core subject) has been discussed recently with a further reduction of hours. 50 credits (instead of 100 today) has been suggested as the new History A course...

Salary: I will finish this article with some reflections about the salary of the upper secondary school teacher in Sweden. A brand new teacher will probably receive around 18,000 SEK (2000€ / £1400 / $2325). After this a certain increase of the salary comes through individual negotiations between the teacher and the Head of the school. If the teacher is a good negotiator (or if he has someone that can negotiate for her/him) the salary increases more. If the teacher doesn’t negotiate or has no one that will do it for her/him, the increase will be less. Most teachers will receive 26,000-28,000 SEK (2900€-3100€ / £2000-£2175 / $3375-$3625) as final wages. A few experienced teachers reach a salary of 32,000 SEK (3500€ / £2500 / $4150)...

#2 John Simkin

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Posted 22 October 2003 - 06:23 AM

I find it fascinating to read about the way history teaching is organized in other countries. There is always the danger of thinking your own system is somehow “natural” and “logical”. Reading about another country shows that any system is open to criticism.

Before discussing the merits of your system is it possible to answer a few questions on the situation in Sweden?

(1) What kind of national assessments takes place in Sweden? Do you have a national exam system?

(2) Do history teachers make much use of primary sources in the classroom? Do they consider different interpretations of the past?

(3) I heard recently that it is impossible for publishers to make a profit out of publishing history textbooks in Sweden and have to rely on government subsidy. Is that true? If so, does it have an impact on the type of textbook produced.

(4) Are Swedish history teachers involved in producing websites? If so, what is the quality like?

(5) Do you have anything like the History Forum in Sweden? Would it be successful if you did?

(6) Are students organized into mixed ability groups or are they placed into different ability sets?

(7) Why has “history gone into decline” over the last few years?

(8) Are teachers in Sweden assessed during their careers? If so, is this information made public. Is there anything like our league tables published in Sweden?

(9) Do most parents send their children to the nearest school? Are schools selective or comprehensive? Do many parents send their children to private schools?

(10) In what ways would you reform history teaching in Sweden?

#3 MAC

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Posted 22 October 2003 - 08:17 AM

I´m going to try to answer your questions - one at the time...

What kind of national assessments takes place in Sweden? Do you have a national exam system?
No - we don´t have any national assessments or national exams. The school itself is responsible for the History being taught - very rarely is it controlled from anybody outside the school...

Do history teachers make much use of primary sources in the classroom? Do they consider different interpretations of the past?
Yes, most teachers use primary sources in some parts of the course, but it´s not a requirement in History A.

I heard recently that it is impossible for publishers to make a profit out of publishing history textbooks in Sweden and have to rely on government subsidy. Is that true? If so, does it have an impact on the type of textbook produced.
This is a question that I can only give part of an answer to. First of all - to publish a textbook in Swedish is a project that´s bound to not be very profitable. Soon we will be 9 million people... and not to many of these would consider bying a history textbook. Another problem is the financial cuts over the last years. Several schools will not be able to buy new textbooks - and therefore we can see a diminishing market for the writers. Thats why I can sense that it´s not any profit in making a textbook. I don´t know if the government subsidies the making of textbooks, but I could imagine that they have to if they want any books published in Swedish.

Are Swedish history teachers involved in producing websites? If so, what is the quality like?
Few - and the quality of the production is very "mixed". Very few produces better quality pages... In my opinion we can se several reasons for this.
1. Teachers do not have the knowledge. They can use a computer and they are familiar with the use of email, chats etc..., but many of them have never learned how to master the making of a web site
2. Resources - in some schools the computer equipment is getting old! It´s hard to get money to replace this equipment. The old equipment is used to just produce texts on. I know that we have a few teachers that use computers as part of their teaching, but from what I understand this group is not very big.
3. Tradition - A tradition of creating websites in schools has never really been established (other than in subjects like "Computers", "Text production with computers" etc...). To be fair we do have teachers, a few at most schools, who works with webproduction or teach students how to make websites, but its still not common that these teachers "enlighten" their colleagues. Their is no common strategy on how to get the schools and teachers to work with the production of websites.

Do you have anything like the History Forum in Sweden? Would it be successful if you did?
No! I don´t know if it would be successful if we established such a site. It demands a certain amount of teachers being exposed to the possibilities of such a Forum and it would demand that somebody had the time and strength to make one...

Are students organized into mixed ability groups or are they placed into different ability sets?
The students are always organized into mixed ability groups.

Why has “history gone into decline” over the last few years?
The answer of this question is very complex - and will be much more subjective than the other answers.
1. The decission in the end of the 1980´s to make the school every local governments responsibility (insted of the State) did create problems. In several districts the old school board disappeared and the school had to adjust to the finances of the district. Before the school became the responsibility of the local governments we had some guarantee that the schools in all of Sweden were treated fairly similar, with about the same financial backing. All unions as well as the vaste majority of the teachers in Sweden was against the local governmants becoming responsible for the financing of the schools (the Minister of Education at the time was Göran Persson - todays Prime Minister...). This decission has created A, B and C schools depending on the finances (and the willingness to invest in education) of each local district.
2. We have gone through several School "Reforms" during the last 15-20 years. Suggestions from the teachers - as well as the unions has often been neglected. We sense a growing rift between the politicians, trying to save as much money as possible, and the demands from a functional school. Unfortunately this development is not only continuing, but it seems to escalate...
3. At the same time as we see history hours being cut the common interest of history seems to increase...
Much more can be said but I let it rest with these comments...

Are teachers in Sweden assessed during their careers? If so, is this information made public. Is there anything like our league tables published in Sweden?
Yes - and No. At the end of each course the teacher responsible for the course has to evaluate it together with the students. This evaluation should be saved (and actually given to the Head). This evaluation is done on most schools in most classes. I have a few personal opinions about how this is done. First of all - it´s the teacher of the course that conduct the evaluation. Second - there is no common form of evaluation (a few schools has it, but as far as I now most schools does not have any specific form...). With other words - the teacher makes the form of evaluation, he conducts it and he later saves the results... This is not good since the opportunity to manipulate the results in your favor are to many...
This self conducted evaluation is not public as far as I now.
I can´t answer the last part of this question - I don´t know anything about the league tables

Do most parents send their children to the nearest school? Are schools selective or comprehensive? Do many parents send their children to private schools?
We have seen an increase of private schools the last years. It´s interesting to see the development... Just a few years ago it was very hard to get the permit to start a private school. The State (often with a Social Democratic majority) had a clear policy of not allowing education to become a "matter of money", meaning that you should not be able to pay for better schooling, it should be every childs right to receive good education. In several local administrations (still often with a Social Democratic majority) a vaste amount of private schools has been approved the last 3-4 years. Some conservative and liberal politicians has even made the remark that they would never had dared to go as far with the creation of private schools as been done lately.
Most parents do still send their kids to the closest school, but we have started to notice a change due to the increase of private schools described above.
When you made your choice of Upper Secondary School at the end of the Compulsory School your grades indicated which schools you were able to come in to - with other words there was a selection. Better grades created some more "prestigous schools".
In some local districts a "lottery system" was introduced to make it possible for students with lower average to attend more prestigous schools. The problem with this system was the variety of students that suddenly showed up on schools with very high achievements (and the fact that several students ended up on schools they never wanted to go to - they often asked "Whats the idea of good grades in Compulsory School if you can´t choose the school you want to go to?"...). The more prestigous schools were rarely prepared to deal with the new problems that these groups brought along, both social and educational problems. Other schools that had a tradition of working with low achievers suddenly faced the same problems - how do we stimulate this group of high achievers? And the local governments were not willing to fund the necessary changes at the schools... It´s not easy to make a system as fair as possible...

In what ways would you reform history teaching in Sweden?
I will think about this question a few days and get back with an answer...

Edited by MAC, 22 October 2003 - 02:47 PM.


#4 MAC

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Posted 22 October 2003 - 08:56 AM

It would be very interesting to find out how other countries finance Upper Secondary Education. As I write about Sweden - Each local district (kommun) has to bear the financial responsibility of both Compulsory as well as Upper Secondary Schools. One of the negative results of this is the creation of better financed schools and districts where money for education is at the bottom of the list...

How does your country finance education?...

Edited by MAC, 22 October 2003 - 09:04 AM.


#5 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 22 October 2003 - 05:08 PM

Thank you Anders for a very interesting seminar so far. I agree with John that it is really important for teachers to gain an understanding of systems elsewhere, not least because it may just encourage to ask questions of their own system. I believe that this is especially important when education has become such a hot political issue as it has in the UK.

Would it be fair to assert that teachers in Sweden have greater professional freedom? I note you point out that your National Curriculum is far less proscriptive than in the UK and the assessment regime sounds absolute heaven when compared to ours.

I would also be very interested to hear about teachers unions and professional associations. I suspect that given what we have heard so far that you may have one association which represents all teachers.

#6 MAC

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Posted 22 October 2003 - 08:33 PM

Andy!

We might have what you call "greater professional freedom", but as I write, this freedom is also a risk. You might get a few teachers that focus on a very narrow topic; the life and death of Gustavus Adolphus etc... The pupils of this class will not be able to participate in many historical debates and they will for sure not have much historical understanding.
I personally think it would be better with a national curriculum - with some freedom but also pointing out some things all students should know something about. The time limit is also a problem when you try to cover some of the essentials of Western Civilization.

We have two main unions for teachers (actually we have several but two that represent the majority of the teachers). LR (Lärarnas Riksförbund - the National Union of Teachers in Sweden) has about 75,000 members. This union is a member of SACO (the Confederation of Professional Associations - mostly professionals with university or college education - my comment) and they have the majority of the Upper Secondary School teachers as members. The biggest teachers union though is Lärarförbundet. They have over 220,000 members (mostly within the Compulsory school system) and they are a member of the TCO (the Confederation of Professional Employees - mostly white-collar workers -my comment)

On their homepage http://www.lararforbundet.se
you can find the following description of the teachers union in Sweden;

Co-operation and influence
In Sweden, state and municipal employees have the same right as employees in the private sector to sign collective agreements and to take industrial action. Strikes and lock-outs are therefore possible within the public sector. The teachers’ organisations, however, have chosen co-operation with the employers in the first instance, since they believe this to be the most efficient means of achieving results.
There is also legislation on co-determination which stipulates that the employer must negotiate with the employees’ organisations before deciding on any important changes which may affect the employees.

The teachers’ organisations, however, have succeeded in securing for their members powers of influence which go beyond the law on co-determination and are unique in the Swedish labour market. In 1996, Lärarförbundet and LR signed a five-year agreement for all their municipally employed members (Agreement 2000), which enabled teachers to exercise great influence on their working conditions and on the quality development of their schools. In each school, teachers and heads of schools discuss together the school curriculum, how it should be organised, what opportunities the teachers will have for in-service training and promotion etc. The distribution of working hours are jointly decided arising from these discussions.

The discussions should lead to agreements which will form part of local collective agreements on salaries and working conditions in each municipality. The agreements may differ between schools in an individual municipality.

Agreement 2000 has an added document whereby the parties involved make a statement of their joint policy on school quality development and which school issues they wish to influence. At the same time, they commit themselves to work towards certain stated goals.



I do not agree with the description above. I think several teachers feel that our unions "sold us out" when they signed the "Agreement 2000". One of the points in this agreement was the removal of the maximum hours a teacher could be teaching.The result is the fact that we don´t have any text that says what the maximum teaching hours could be...
Teachers should work a total of 1360 hours per year. What the teacher will do during these hours is a matter of individual agreements, but as many teachers pointed out - there is no formal hinder for a school to force a teacher to teach double the amount of hours compared to what was counted as maximum before the year 2000... :(

Edited by MAC, 22 October 2003 - 08:39 PM.


#7 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 23 October 2003 - 07:25 AM

Co-operation and influence
In Sweden, state and municipal employees have the same right as employees in the private sector to sign collective agreements and to take industrial action. Strikes and lock-outs are therefore possible within the public sector. The teachers’ organisations, however, have chosen co-operation with the employers in the first instance, since they believe this to be the most efficient means of achieving results.
There is also legislation on co-determination which stipulates that the employer must negotiate with the employees’ organisations before deciding on any important changes which may affect the employees.

The teachers’ organisations, however, have succeeded in securing for their members powers of influence which go beyond the law on co-determination and are unique in the Swedish labour market. In 1996, Lärarförbundet and LR signed a five-year agreement for all their municipally employed members (Agreement 2000), which enabled teachers to exercise great influence on their working conditions and on the quality development of their schools. In each school, teachers and heads of schools discuss together the school curriculum, how it should be organised, what opportunities the teachers will have for in-service training and promotion etc. The distribution of working hours are jointly decided arising from these discussions.

The discussions should lead to agreements which will form part of local collective agreements on salaries and working conditions in each municipality. The agreements may differ between schools in an individual municipality.

Agreement 2000 has an added document whereby the parties involved make a statement of their joint policy on school quality development and which school issues they wish to influence. At the same time, they commit themselves to work towards certain stated goals.



 

It sounds very much as though your unions have "negotiated away" most of your power and influence and for little in return.

Workload and teaching hours are important issues in th UK too. We currently have an insidious concept known as "directed time" in our terms of employment. This states that teachers are required to be on duty for 1265 hours in a year (this of course excludes marking and preparation which in theory can mean limitless hours!). Worse still the usual trick for management teams of schools is to "fiddle" the figures so it looks as though staff actually do less than their 1265 hours. This gives management carte blanche to increase teachers workloads and job descriptions as they see fit - not a happy state of affairs

#8 MAC

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Posted 23 October 2003 - 08:35 AM

Exactly my opinion - they did sell our power and influence out!
The situation in Sweden seems to be quite similar to the one in UK. Some schools force their teachers to be at school 1360 hours and as you pointed out - planning, correcting and marking is not necessarly included in these hours.
I guess teachers in Sweden are waiting for a case where this new order will be "tested" (through some kind of conflict). We need to know what is possible and what is not possible within this relatively new framework.

Edited by MAC, 23 October 2003 - 08:37 AM.


#9 John Simkin

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Posted 23 October 2003 - 09:39 AM

As a result of my involvement in the European Virtual School, over the last five years I have taken part in several discussions about the nature of history teaching in Europe. The areas where I tend to favour the rest of Europe is the tendency to teach in mixed ability classes and the lack of published league tables (and the philosophy that supports this idea). In the rest of Europe the role of national examinations also plays a less prominent role in shaping what goes on in the classroom. Private education also plays a more limited role in the system.
However, I do feel that some aspects of the British system is better than in most other European countries. I think we rightly place more emphasis on skills than in other countries. As a result I think history teaching in British schools is less nationalistic than in most other countries.

The other thing I value is the tradition of British teachers to have a healthy scepticism of those in power (I feel this is in decline but it still exists at a level higher than in most other countries). One of the consequences of this is the desire by teachers to produce their own resources. When I was trained in the 1970s I was given the impression you were not a real teacher unless you produced your own materials. The feeling was that you could not trust educational publishers to produce what you or your students needed. Publishers were always going to be followers, rather than leaders, in addressing issues such as racism and sexism.

As a result it was teachers who played such an important role in developing the skills approach to history teaching. They were also the pioneers in developing computer programs in the 1980s and websites in the 1990s. Publishers of course eventually responded to these demands and tried to “commercialise” these products. However, it was the classroom teacher who determined the direction of this development.

My concern is that European government’s show signs of adopting the bad things about our system. Instead, I would rather European history teachers were inspired by following the example set by the classroom teacher in Britain by becoming more involved in shaping the system.

#10 MAC

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Posted 23 October 2003 - 09:35 PM

Not only did scepticism against those in power exist but also against the teaching training program. Many critical voices were heard about the educational system of its time. I also recognize the necessity to produce your own material.

One of the big differences from when I started my teaching career is the amount of time you could spend preparing new material/projects. It seems like we gradually have received new tasks (meetings, creation of cross curriculum activities, filling in lists of one kind after the other, copying, preparing and preforming individual development plans, more meetings...) which "eats" the time necessary for successful planning.

Another opportunity that has disappeared is the right to study with salary... A teacher could ask for half a year or a year "leave" while he/she studied. Meanwhile the teacher received part of their salary. This made it possible for a teacher to study some topics more in-depth - or build up skills in new topics. Most of all it gave the teacher an opportunity to get out of the classroom situation for a while -and it gave the school a teacher with better education. This is not possible any more...

#11 Juan Carlos

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Posted 24 October 2003 - 12:26 PM

This seminar and the subsequent replies has brought up a lot of interesting topics to discuss. I am focusing on some of them from a Spanish pespective.

It is funny to see how the European educational systems go around and around the same problems (it is logical) and how the different countries go in different and, sometimes, contradictory directions (it is not so logical):

Mixed ability groups:
After a general educational law introduced by the Socialist government in the late eighties which established mixed ability groups all over compulsory education (up to 16 years old), the new right-wing government has just passed a new law creating new "itineraries" (different ability groups) from 14 years old. Most of the teachers agree with this new law.
As a matter of fact, what was and still is going on is that an egalitarian law had perverse consequences: Middle classes take their children out of public schools (they dont' want them to be with inmigrant or poorer children) and take them to private or state subsidised schools. Public schools (about 70 % of the whole educational system) are more and more "specialised" in lower classes and inmigrants.

Teachers' freedom and salaries:
Spanish system is still based on a "civil servant" mentality.
It means that a teacher is quite free to create his/her own resources, planify lesson plans..., but, at the same time, he is going to receive the same salary, it doesn't matter what he really does at the classroom. This is a system based on young (and quite a few not so young) teachers' enthusiasm and that does not foster innovation and improvement.
The right-wing government has seriously reduced teacher's competences and has passed a quite strict curriculum.

History decline:
Spanish history teachers have mighty allies: nationalisms. :angry: In my country, there was a very extended debate a few years ago in the media, newspapers... about teaching history! Why? Nothing to do with history teaching is about, it had to do with building up a Catalan, Basque... history or trying to take back a Spanish centralist conception of history.
As a consequence, in the Upper Secondary Education (two years -16-18 years old), in the first year roughly half of the students (Social Sciences and Humanities) take four hours a week of World Modern History and in the second and last year before University all the students take four hours a week of Spain's history.

Although I am completely agains nationalism (Spanish and so on)... I have to accept that, as a history teacher, I am interested in it.

#12 MAC

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Posted 24 October 2003 - 08:16 PM

I can understand the problem with nationalistic history, but not with knowing more about your contries past. I have for several years felt that Sweden and Swedish schools is neglecting our own history. I wouldn´t like to bring in a nationalistic view, but I wish that the schools could focus a bit more on its own history.
My experience when I do discuss these matters with other teachers of history is that in an 80 hour course maybe 15-20 hours is spent on Swedish history (Vikings, something about the establishment of the nation in the 16th century, the Great Nordic War... and maybe some short notices about the 19th/20th century). The short time spent on the development of modern Sweden gives the result that most students, even if they study history has very little historical comprehension on Sweden of today... :(
I don´t have anything against the mixed ability groups. I recent the development of more and more private schools. We use to have a fairly good education for everyone. To make decent education to something for just the wealthy is a bad idea! :angry: :angry: :angry:
Several leading people from the established parties seems to be behind this development (conservative, liberals, agrarians, social democrats...) which is a bit surprizing. Equal opportunities within compulsory and upper secondary education use to be an important question for at least the social democrats. Todays social democrats have much more in common with the conservatives than they use to. I now that Sweden is not the only country that faces this disintegration of the 20th century party system. Teachers that want to keep high standard on the compulsory and upper secondary education - and keep the number of private schools down are now a bit lost - who should we turn to??? :crazy:

Edited by MAC, 24 October 2003 - 08:19 PM.


#13 John Simkin

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 06:47 AM

One of the big differences from when I started my teaching career is the amount of time you could spend preparing new material/projects. It seems like we gradually have received new tasks (meetings, creation of cross curriculum activities, filling in lists of one kind after the other, copying, preparing and performing individual development plans, more meetings...) which "eats" the time necessary for successful planning. (Anders, Sweden)

Spanish system is still based on a "civil servant" mentality. It means that a teacher is quite free to create his/her own resources, plan lesson plans..., but, at the same time, he is going to receive the same salary, it doesn't matter what he really does at the classroom. This is a system based on young (and quite a few not so young) teachers' enthusiasm and that does not foster innovation and improvement. The right-wing government has seriously reduced teacher's competences and has passed a quite strict curriculum. (Juan Carlos, Spain)

I believe that the creation of teaching resources is the most important (and enjoyable) work that a teacher does outside the classroom. I have always found that my best lessons have come from using my own resources. The main reason for this (and I am sure it is true of all teachers) is because the materials have been tailored for the needs of my own students. This includes a knowledge of what the students already know (the most crucial aspect of the teaching process).

Yet as Anders and Juan Carlos have pointed out, producing teaching materials is very time-consuming. Despite the fact that developments in technology has made the production of good quality materials easier, there has probably been a decline in the amount of good material being produced. The main reason for this is that teachers have been forced to spend more time carrying out other tasks.

One of the major problems is that teachers spend too much time in the classroom. So also do the students. The idea that students can be effective students for six hours a day is ridiculous. If would be far better if they spent two or three hours on the sports field or in other non-academic activities. The quality of teaching would improve dramatically if teachers had more time to prepare for their time in the classroom.

I know that if given more time some teachers would still resort to photocopying pages from history textbooks. However, there are things we could do to turn all teachers into resource producers. This means providing INSET on producing teaching materials. We also need to make this a compulsory part of PGCE courses. For example, it is a scandal that students are leaving their PGCE courses without the ability to create their own website. Teachers should be encouraged to produce materials with other members of the department. With the development of the Internet it is even possible to develop materials with teachers in other schools throughout the world.

It is good to see that the Historical Association is now moving in this direction. See

http://194.93.140.24...nline_inset.htm

Edited by John Simkin, 25 October 2003 - 06:54 AM.


#14 MAC

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 08:33 AM

I could not agree more. John puts his finger on two very important issues;

...producing teaching materials is very time-consuming. Despite the fact that developments in technology has made the production of good quality materials easier, there has probably been a decline in the amount of good material being produced. The main reason for this is that teachers have been forced to spend more time carrying out other tasks.

One of the main reasons why I once became a history teacher (except of course my interest in the subject) was the creative side. As John points out - there is no material better than the material you produce to the specific group. It´s extremely important to have time for this production, but as I pointed out instead political goals of forced cross-curriculum activities, forced co-operation between teachers and administrative work with no real demands - just time consuming - has "eaten" that time. I must clearly state that I have nothing against co-operation and cross-curriculum activities - but they can´t be put into a schools agenda Mondays and Thursdays between 16.00-17.00 with a group of teachers that has nothing in common. It´s confusing for the members of such groups and very time consuming to make projects up just to please the politicians (and the school board). A few of these groups do come up with activities worth while, but most of the projects going on is just an uninspired show piece... :angry:

One of the major problems is that teachers spend too much time in the classroom. So also do the students. The idea that students can be effective students for six hours a day is ridiculous. If would be far better if they spent two or three hours on the sports field or in other non-academic activities. The quality of teaching would improve dramatically if teachers had more time to prepare for their time in the classroom.

Couldn´t agree more on this one. The students day - from 08.00 to 16.30-17.00 with 5-6 different subjects every day is absolutely crazy! Often it´s amazing that they manage to sit up by the end of the day. This schedule and the ideas behind it is devastating for both teachers and students - how can it be possible to spur some future interest in your subject - as well as how is it possible to learn anything under these circumstances?
I would rather see a more concentrated day. Let the students have two subjects a day - not more and give them time to work with these subjects. Maybe one hour with the teacher and then a few hours doing what was decided during the short starting lecture (could be online activities, creating homepages, working on a quizzle, etc...).
I was fortunate enough to be a pupil during an experimental period - end of the 60´s and the beginning of the 70´s. We studied 2 weeks intensively with several lessons in 3 - mostly four subjects. Than we had a four week period where we worked with the subjects. During this period we only had a few "check-up" gatherings every week. It was a system that gave us the ability to plan ahead (under supervision) but most of all we were not "killed" of boredom. With todays technology this could be developed much more than it was possible at the time. For me personally it meant that I had great skills in planning, structuring and taking responsibility for my studies which was not to bad when I went to the university... :D

So make website creations obligatoric and give the teachers (and the students) more time!!! :teacher:

#15 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 05:35 PM

I believe that the creation of teaching resources is the most important (and enjoyable) work that a teacher does outside the classroom. I have always found that my best lessons have come from using my own resources. The main reason for this (and I am sure it is true of all teachers) is because the materials have been tailored for the needs of my own students.  This includes a knowledge of what the students already know (the most crucial aspect of the teaching process).

I couldn't agree more. It is the creative side of my work which in the large part keeps me in teaching. It is also of course one of the most important skills of being a succesful teacher (I would put it along side performance skills and interpersonal skills in the classroom). The ability to empathise with and understand what your students need and are ready for, and then to create some successful resources and see the students progress as they use them is a very great pleasure indeed.

Of course I also agree with all the comments posted thus far regarding the lack of time teachers are given to create appropriate resources. Sad isn't it that the UK government seems to believe that a centrally planned curriculum and bureaucratically produced "resources" delivered one is led to believe in the future by untrained non graduates could ever pass for "teaching" :angry:




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