The SNS Education Commission was a research programme, started in 2011, which focused on the overarching question of how Sweden can be strengthened as a knowledge-based economy. The research programme has had a multidisciplinary approach and has engaged researchers from different fields (14 researchers in total).

SNS Educational Commission has aimed at providing a broad analysis of problems and challenges of the Swedish school. The research programme has resulted in a total of 5 reports by 14 researchers. The researchers are from different fields: pedagogy, economics, business administration, natural science, political science and history.

The studies in the programme considered leadership in schools and student results, assessment systems and the link between education and the knowledge and skills of adults.

The 14 participating researchers came from 9 institutions of higher education: University of Gothenburg, Stockholm University, Uppsala University, Stanford University, Lund University, Umeå University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and University West.



The Headmaster: A Strong Link in School Governance

There is a lack of mutual confidence today between headmasters (school principals) and politicians. Headmasters believe local politicians do not have sufficient expertise while politicians lack confidence in headmasters’ capability and competence to develop schools. These are the conclusions of the research report The Headmaster: A Strong Link in School Governance.

The report presents a unique survey of headmasters and politicians on local education councils throughout Sweden.
Some findings from the survey:
43 per cent of headmasters think that politicians on local education councils do not have sufficient expertise to develop schools. At the same time, only about a third of politicians in the local councils believe headmasters have the necessary competence.
One out of two headmasters feel they have no control over important decisions about their school’s finances and staff.
Headmasters feel powerless vis-à-vis politicians. Only 11 per cent of headmasters believe they can influence decisions on the local education council.

Researchers: Olof Johansson, professor of political science at Umeå University, and Elisabet Nihlfors, lecturer in pedagogy at Uppsala University.

Equality in Assessment in and by Swedish Schools: Problems and Opportunities

The Swedish education system is characterized to a high degree by decentralization, with goals and results governing activities in preschool, primary and secondary school. According to the OECD, a system governed by
goals and results sets high demands for assessment and monitoring, at both the local and central level.

The aim of this planned study is to facilitate transparency in the Swedish education assessment system and provide proposals for how it can be designed so that individual components contribute to a more coherent system.

Researchers: Christina Cliffordson, professor of pedagogy, University West; Gudrun Erickson, lecturer in pedagogy, University of Gothenburg; and Jan-Eric Gustafsson, professor of pedagogy, University of Gothenburg.

Education, Research, Collaboration: What Can Swedish Universities Learn from Stanford and Berkeley?

Universities work in an increasingly globalized environment. Technological advances and increased mobility for students and professors are a few of the factors forcing educational institutions to re-evaluate their role, function and position vis-à-vis their community.

In the report, a Swedish-US research group compares the quality of higher education in Sweden with that at the top US universities Stanford and the University of California Berkeley. The aim is to identify the factors that have enabled Stanford and Berkeley to combine world-leading teaching, research and community outreach.

Researchers: Mats Benner, professor of research policy, Lund University; Arthur Bienenstock, professor emeritus of applied physics, Stanford University; Anne Lidgard, director, Vinnova’s Silicon Valley office; Sylvia Schwaag Serger, adjunct professor of research policy, Lund University, and director of international strategy, Vinnova.

The Knowledge and Skills of Adults

An international study of the knowledge and skills of Swedish adults shows a deterioration of the knowledge level in reading and math among young adults, similar to the deterioration among school pupils that we have seen in the PISA survey. Similar to the PISA survey, the study finds declining results for those who have graduated from Swedish schools during the last few years. It does not seem to be possible to repair knowledge and skills that have not developed in school through professional experience or training in adult life.

Researchers: Jan-Eric Gustafsson, professor of pedagogy, University of Gothenburg; Erik Mellander, PhD in economics and chair of the Swedish expert group for the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) study; and Mats Myrberg, professor of pedagogy, in charge of Sweden’s participation in IALS and a member of the Swedish expert group for PIAAC.

Policy ideas for the Swedish school system

The last report of the research programme is written by Jan-Eric Gustafsson, professor of pedagogy, University of Gothenburg, Sverker Sörlin, professor of Environmental History, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Jonas Vlachos, professor of economics at Stockholm University. The authors take on a broad approach to Swedish school policy. The analysis departs from the deterioration of results in Swedish schools and addresses a broad range of issues: teachers’ capacity and education, educational quality, equality, resources, grades, and the major reforms of the 1990s.

Facts about the project

Funding and reference group

A reference group with leading representatives for companies and government authorities is connected to the commission in order to provide intellectual and financial support. The role of the reference group is to give views on the aim and direction of the project and to meet the researchers in the course of the work in order to provide views.

The reference group consists of The Swedish National Agency for Education, The Swedish Association of School Principals and Directors of Education, The Swedish Schools Inspectorate, Tieto, Ernst & Young, The Swedish Teachers’ Union, City of Stockholm, Theducation AB, Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, SKL, LO and Viktor Rydbergs Schools Foundation. Additional agents might be added. The chairman of the reference group is Peter Gudmundsson, rector at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology.

The commission expert group

An expert group is also connected to the SNS Educational Commission.

On May 11 2011, there was a presentation of the SNS Educational Commission in an article at DN-debatt signed by the members of the expert group that is connected to the project.

The expert group consists of: Anders Björklund, Professor of Economics, Swedish Institute for Social Research, SOFI, Stockholm University, Arvid Carlsson, Professor, Nobel Laureate in Medicine 2000, Anna Ekström, Director General of the Swedish National Agency for Education, Inger Enkvist, Professor of Languanges and Litterature, Lund University, Jan-Eric Gustafsson, Professor of Pedagogy, University of Gothenburg, Lars Heikensten, Director of the Nobel Foundation, Torkel Klingberg, Professor of Neuroscience, KI, Lars Leijonborg, Chairman of the Friskoleutredningen (The Free School Commission), Pär Nuder, former Minister of Finance, Bengt Samuelsson, Professor, Nobel Laurate in Medicine 1982, and Sverker Sörlin, Professor of Enviornmental History, KTH.

Previous conferences

On 4 December, the SNS Education Commission held a seminar to discuss PISA 2012, the OECD study measuring student knowledge and skills in different countries. Also discussed was the new component, the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which measures the knowledge and skills of the adult population. The study has attracted considerable attention in both Swedish and international debates.

In the autumn of 2011, a new teacher training programme was implemented in Sweden, one of a number of teacher training reforms carried out within a relatively short period. What challenges does teacher training still face? Can the long standing conflict about teacher training now be set aside or will further changes be needed? The SNS Education Commission invited participants to join a dialogue about the new teacher training programme.

Within the scope of the SNS Education Commission, SNS held a seminar about the negative trend in the global education rankings. Results from the international PIRLS and TIMSS surveys were presented. Also discussed were what measures had led Norway to reverse its negative trend and what Swedish policy makers could learn from this.