Sweden <--> Ohio: Student

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


First first-hand Swedish school experience today. We didn't teach, but talked to and observed some classes (w/o preparation) in a Swedish High School. It was a medium size HS with 400 students and was located just outside of town. As such, it was particularly "Swedish" with only two non-Swedish (immigrant) students in the whole school.

The school was a long low building, one level, in a straight line. The cafeteria was a separate building behind the school (and the lunch was *vile*, though free for all students and staff, including us). I didn't take a picture though I was tempted - mashed potatoes (w/ ketchup), a bowl of sweet relish, and what I can only describe as huge salty spam hotdogs served by the 'slice'/spoonful. Also, hard biscut-crackers with butter/margarine and milk or water. And shredded carrots without dressing, which some students actually took.


The students in classes were engaged, actively, which was a huge change from my experiences of American schools. Some students asked questions, others paid attention w/o coercion, and other students made occasional quiet comments to their neighbors (the most 'acting out' that I witnessed). The students have an incredible amount of freedom - 10-20min between classes, completely unsupervised in the hallways (the teachers retire to the lounge for coffee and sliced bread with butter). There are only 20-22 students per teacher in class and the power dynamic between teachers and students is far more balanced than in the United States.


Democracy and the democratic process were mentioned countless times, both in reference to classroom progress and in reference to the incredible (to us) freedoms we witnessed. Teachers look relaxed and do not yell at their students - I am unclear on what punishments are available or what other method they use to obtain obedience... perhaps none, if the headmaster's claims are to be believed. Also, teachers look to students for approval of teaching methods and feedback about presentation of material in a way I would normally associate with the power dynamic between office colleagues.

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