Decline and fall of the Swedish School System

Swedish schools are notorious for their lack of discipline, and for the modest achievements of their pupils. Becoming a teacher in Sweden today is to choose a profession low in status; with a salary practically no industrial worker would accept, having to work longer hours than other professions in an environment of stress, chaos, pitiful equipment and a heavy burden of administrative tasks preventing them from doing what a teacher should to – to teach.

When the heavily tried teacher corps of Sweden thought the nadir of their profession had been reached, a local court in northern Sweden managed to deal them another blow. In a verdict where a 15 year old pupil stood trial for assault on his teacher, the court stated that a teacher in Sweden must be ready to accept being beaten and threatened when performing his/hers profession.

The pupil was found guilty of assault by the court and sentenced to community service, but the teacher was not granted any indemnity on grounds that suffering threats and violence must be considered an acceptable part of a teachers everyday work, like that of a policeman.

Some 30 000 teachers in Sweden (about 10 % of all teachers) have been assaulted or threatened. It is not uncommon for teachers to be sacked and prosecuted for using physical force to restrain unruly students, in which case the student of course get indemnities.

The verdict has been appealed to a higher court and will most likely be overturned in favor of the assaulted teacher, but the fact that a local court has even considered claiming that a teacher should have to tolerate being assaulted has created an outcry among the teachers, and even the teachers unions, famous for their meekness, have protested.

Hopefully this might turn out to be a pivotal event in the development of the Swedish educational system. Around me I hear more and more teachers deciding to leave for more appreciated professions with reasonable work conditions. This event might be final push for many teachers with a pent-up resentment against the blather school forced upon them by radical politicians and pedagogues during the last four decades, making them actually vote with their feet.

Otherwise the Swedish teachers, out of misplaced loyalty to society, pupils and parents, have always stoically accepted the burdens placed on them and the constant reforms that have turned a once efficient institution of learning into a smoldering ruin. Thus the teachers have not only been the victims of an utterly failed policy, but also a part of the problem. By accepting degradation after degradation, staying on their posts, trying to make it all work, the teachers are actually protecting the politicians from the consequences of their follies, giving them freedom of action for new brave and disastrous reforms.

There is already a shortage of teachers in Sweden, and educational places to the profession are left largely empty. If only a small portion of the teachers that now talk of leaving really does so, the schooling system might actually collapse. This, I think, would be the best that could happen. The system is so thoroughly rotten that the only way to move forward is to start all over again.

My own humble contribution has been to tender my resignation as a teacher. Starting this summer I will be driving a garbage truck instead, thus improving my salary by 30 %, and at the same time gaining a lot of spare time that I can spend with my children and indulge in my interest in reading history, something there is little room for as a history teacher. An additional perk of that job is that absorbing assaults is not part of the job description.

Patrik Magnusson, Swedish Conservative, ex-teacher

P.S. Did you by the way know that many of the leading members of the now defunct society for friendship between Sweden and DDR were social democratic educational politicians that in the 60s formulated the educational policies that since have destroyed the Swedish school.


20 Responses to “Decline and fall of the Swedish School System”

  1. 1 Van S. May 29, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Lycka till med ditt nya jobb. Kanske innebär skolans förlust ändå någonting positivt – att du kommer ha mer tid för bloggen?

  2. 2 Erik J. June 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Lycka till med det nya jobbet.
    Jag känner igen nästan allt du skriver. För sex år sedan gjorde jag som du, sade upp mig från mitt lärarjobb och gick till ett bättre betalt arbete med mindre ansvar och lägre krav på formell utbildning. Det beslutet har jag aldrig ångrat.

    På en punkt vill jag dock ifrågasätta dina uppgifter. Är det verkligen “not uncommon” att lärare får sparken efter att ha använt våld mot elever? Hur många fall rör det sig om per år?

  3. 3 Patrik Magnusson June 6, 2012 at 9:02 pm


    Tack för lyckönskningarna. Ser fram emot en behagligare tillvaro. “not uncommon” är väl dessvärre ett luddigt begrepp, och jag kan hålla med om att det ger intryck av att det är vanligare än det är. Jag har faktiskt inte statistik, men jag skulle uppskatta det till ett ensiffrigt antal fall per år baserat på det man hör talas om i media.

    Sedan är det naturligtvis en glidande skala från rena avskedanden, via olika former av disciplinära ingrepp såsom omplaceringar, till situationer där läraren “självmant” säger upp sig efter påtryckingar från skolledning eller på grund av bristande stöd/förståelse från sin arbetsgivare. Men jag förstår din invändning.

    Van S,

    Tack även för dina lyckönskningar. Vi får se vad framtiden har i sitt sköte vad avser bloggen. Just nu är det i alla fall tvärstopp med fritid med tanke på den arbetsanhopning som tenderar att infalla vis terminsslut.

  4. 4 Thomas June 17, 2012 at 5:06 am


    Jag hoppas att du trivs på ditt nya jobb, och att du får massor med tid att läsa allsköns konservativa tänkare!


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  6. 6 exoligu March 23, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Trevlig att träffas. Jag också tror på devisen verka utan att synas. – I don’t speak Swedish; I just try to be polite, because this is the first time I am here; and a blog is like a home, I think 🙂

    I believe this is a very interesting article. We have also a lot of discussions about education in Romania. Very often the nordic style of education is given as an example to follow. This is why your article attracted me from the beginning. I think it is important to learn from Swedish experience in education, paying attention not only to the good parts, but to the problems.

    So, in return I can point to one of my article about education:

    Unfortunately it is written in Romanian, but one can easily understand it thanks to google translate. Long live the google translate!

    If you agree I will post a link to your article about the education in Sweden on my blog.

    Have a nice day! Hej då!

  7. 7 essenonvideri June 8, 2014 at 7:04 pm


    Welcome to my blog. I apologize for not answering until now. I am afraid I have not checked it for a very long time. I am glad you find the article interesting and of course you may post a link to it.

    Unfortunately since I wrote the article the downhill development of the Swedish schools have continued. The last PISA-comparison was a nightmare to read for Swedish politicians and teachers.

    In a few months we will probably have a left wing government in Sweden, which will result in a crackdown on private schools (which the leftists beleive is the cause of all the problems), continued proletarisation of the teachers, less focus on traditional Learning and on structure and order in schools (all of which I beleive to be precisely the faults that brought us todays disastrous situation).

    Vae Victis!

  8. 9 exoligu June 30, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    You can find a link to your text on my blog:

    I hope it will help signal a problem concerning us all.

    Ha en bra dag!

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