Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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Hilary's Blog - 29 Jun 2009

More on the Scandinavian system

Following my recent Quandary column on Swedish schools, more readers have been in touch with interesting responses. Here are a couple:

Alan Dunwiddie writes:

"I was most interested in your article on the Scandinavian school system. As a Brit living in Denmark for five years with a Danish partner and four children, Iíve seen the eldest two enter the education system there so feel quite well placed to comment. First off, the state schools are in no way superior to Britainís and suffer many of the same complaints, such as large class sizes (one friendís child started their first year at six in a class of 30!). Where it differs most majorly is the amazing private school system, whereby the state accepts your choice of opting out of the state system for private schooling and pays ninety per cent of the fees. I read once that 20% of Danish children go to private schools and I can well believe it - for only approx £60 a month, your children have access to private schooling most British people would love here but simply cannot afford to choose. Perhaps a weird anacronism that the socialist system supports and encourages private schools to such an extent, but I have seen its many benefits, including more school pride, better motivated teachers and less tinkering with the education system for political purposes Ė all of which benefit the most important facet of any education system, the children!"

And Peter Reeve writes:

"An important ingredient of the Swedish system is that it relates to their own geography and culture. Their Nordic of dark, pine forests, rocky mountains, snow, ice and still lakes gave rise to stories of trolls and tomtes, an awarenss of the elements, sun, water, fire and air, and a background of Norse mythology. In such stories, with their deep roots, there is a sense of wonder and also a reassurance, such as in tales of Peter Pastureman, of human qualities of courage and resourcefulness.

Much of this is missing from our urban-based and functional attitude to education in this country."