Saturday, September 24, 2011

Early Years Education: Sweden

I watched the 3-part video on the Swedish education system (posted under resources on ctools) and couldn't help but compare the Swedish students' to the American and Korean school system of which I'm accustomed. The most notable differences were the heavy state subsidies, long preschool availability (open early/closes late) , and the mix of individual attention with the loose lesson structure.

American preschools are expensive with strict hours and, often, Americans view strict lesson plans as an indicator of productivity and future success. This is even more pronounced in a country like Korea where even young students are sent to cram schools every evening. No level of Korean schooling is free, either; families are responsible for paying for all levels of education.

More so, the Swedish early education system seems very flexible and catering to the needs of the parents. Swedish preschool hours give both parents the opportunity to work and, like Prof. Eriksson mentioned in class, a Swedish stay-at-home parent is very unusual. Perhaps the fact that many more American mothers (and significantly more Korean mothers) are staying at home is a factor preserving the current US preschool system. Just think, there is less demand in America for early education systems to cater to families as there is often a parent who is available to take care of the child as needed.

Near the end of the episode, the video asked an interesting question:
"Can we afford to invest as much as the Swedes do in personal education?"

Of course, everyone wants to invest in education because, as cliche as it is, children really are the future. However, I question whether large nations such as the USA would take to higher taxes and school reform it would take to model the Swedish system. There would also be the mental and cultural change that many families and students would have to adapt to (whether it is superior or not). Talking of change is easier said than done.

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