20 years of changes in school: What happened to equality?

Anders Böhlmark Helena Holmlund

The Swedish school has experienced two turbulent decades with a number of reforms. Many talk about the result as a school in crisis where the results of Swedish students deteriorate in international knowledge tests and there is an increase in school segregation. But does this also mean that Swedish schools have become more unequal?

20_ar_med_forandringar_i_skolan.pdf 1.6 MB PDF

THERE HAS BEEN NO INCREASE IN THE ROLE OF FAMILY BACKGROUND. In this research study, which has been conducted at the request of SNS, Anders Böhlmark and Helena Holmlund show that there has been no increase in the importance of family background for the school results of the individual student in the last twenty years – despite the fact that school segregation has doubled in the same time period.

POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS. The authors discuss what might be the reasons for this. By equality the authors mean that ”underlying factors” such as family, residence area and school should have as little importance as possible for the student’s possibility to obtain good study results. Socioeconomic segregation is not the same as insufficient equality but they might have an effect on each other. The study also discusses measures that might improve equality at school.

MAKING LIFE OPPORTUNITIES MORE EQUAL. The result that the importance of family background remains unchanged while there has been an increase in school segregation can be interpreted as Swedish schools having become better at making life opportunities more equal. Other factors might also have played a role, however. Pre-school has become more accessible to a larger number of families over time. The differences between the children’s parents might also have become smaller over time when it comes to attitudes, demands and involvement in the education.

Researchers and Scientific Directors
ANDERS BÖHLMARK has a PhD in Economics and works at the Swedish Institute for Social Research at Stockholm University (SOFI), Anders.Bohlmark@sofi.su.se

HELENA HOLMLUND has a PhD in Economics and works at the Swedish Institute for Social Research at Stockholm University (SOFI), helena.holmlund@sofi.su.se or +46-(0)73-982 97 28