Schools and democracy

Last updated: 12 11 2021

Image Boken om Sverige
This material is from the book About Sweden.

There is much discussion of democracy in the Swedish school system. One of the goals of school is for pupils to grow into adults who participate in and take responsibility for the collective society.

Pupils must learn how to live in a democracy and what their rights and obligations are. For this reason, classes often include assignments in which pupils have to apply the practical workings of democracy.

School in the past

The Swedish school system has changed a lot since the middle of the 20th century. In the past, there were strict rules in school. Teachers were allowed to hit their pupils. This has been banned since 1958.

Pupils did not address their teacher as "you" or use their first name. Instead they said "miss" or "sir". Pupils were given grades from their first year of school. A pupil who did not pass two or three subjects was forced to repeat the same school year.

School today

Today we have a school system in which pupils have to learn to think independently and they have the opportunity to influence their own education. The teacher is the leader of the group, but there is a more equality to the contact between teacher and pupil.

Swedish schools have fundamental values that are based on the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Fundamental values are how we treat one another as children, young people and adults. This means that no one may treat anyone else badly in Swedish schools. Girls and boys have to have the same opportunities in school. Pupils can influence their education by attending class meetings and class council meetings.

Schools and the family

In Sweden, there is an expectation that the parents will be involved in their children's school work. Parents, teachers and pupils work together so that children will have the best possible time in school. School staff want parents to play an active part in their children's lives and for the parents to know and understand what their children are doing in school.

Each semester, parents come to the school to discuss their child's progress. During this discussion, the parents can meet the teacher in peace and quiet. They have the chance to talk about how the child is developing in school and any help the child may need. The teacher writes an individual development plan at this time. If you have a mother tongue other than Swedish, you are entitled to an interpreter at this meeting.

Schools also hold parents' meetings at which parents can obtain information about and influence what happens in the school.

As parents, you are also welcome to join your child at school to see how it works and how things are going for your child. You can also call your teacher or the principal in order to ask questions or talk about your child.