2 February 2024

Kindergarten students work with tablets at a school in Stockholm on March 3, 2014.

Did we go too fast, too far, too soon? For a few months, this little music has been rising in Sweden. She questions the place of screens and digital technology in schools in the kingdom, questioned by health professionals.

On May 15, the Minister for Schools, Lotta Edholm, reacted by burying the strategy of the national agency for school education (Skolverket) in favor of the pursuit of digital, presented in December 2022. At the time, already , the minister had expressed her doubts, in a column published by the newspaper Expressen, December 21. She described the use of digital technology in Swedish schools as” experimentation “ and was annoyed at “the uncritical attitude that casually saw digitization as good, whatever its content”, drive to “the estrangement” of the school textbook, which she recalled had “benefits that no tablet can replace”.

To remedy this, the center-right government has announced that it will release 685 million crowns (60 million euros) this year and 500 million (44 million euros) per year in 2024 and 2025, to accelerate the return of textbooks to schools. “It’s part of the return of reading to school, at the expense of screen time”, explained the minister. Objective: to guarantee one book per student and per subject.

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This is no longer the case today. Over the past fifteen years, screens have gradually replaced manuals. From college, above all, students are spending more and more time in front of computers, generally provided by the establishment: regardless of the subjects, they must connect to the Internet, to search for information online, write an assignment or do their revisions.

“Democracy and Equality”

However, there are no statistics on how much time young Swedes spend in front of a screen at school. It varies from one establishment to another, and depends on the teachers – their interest in digital technology and their level of training, which fluctuates from one municipality to another, depending on the financial commitment of the municipalities. In early December 2022, in a survey of 2,000 teachers by their union, nearly one in five teachers on average believed that his students rarely or never wrote by hand. In college, they were 35.3% of teachers and 56.8% in high school.

In her crusade against screens, the Minister for Schools held them responsible for the decline in the reading and comprehension skills of young Swedes, highlighted by the study “Progress in international reading literacy” (Pirls), carried out in fifty -seven countries and published on 16 May – their level, however, remains above the European average. It is also because, according to her, of the omnipresence of screens that students have lost the habit of reading, that teachers use handouts (for lack of textbooks) and that parents are unable to help their children.

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