International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation
The Case of Sweden
Prepared by Gerd Brandell and Suzanne Gennow
In Sweden the local communities run the school. The various teachers' unions and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities (the local communities) have a general agreement concerning teachers' right and obligation to participate in in-service training. This general agreement is then specified in an agreement at the local level. Every community has a local agreement with the union about teachers' total working time, not only their teaching time. This time includes 13 days per year of in-service training, but the form of the in-service training is left to the discretion of the provider and varies from school to school. Most of the in-service days are used for common activities at the beginning and end of the school year. These activities are compulsory.
Some schools have started to make individual in-service training plans for each teacher. The plan is supposed to reflect the areas in which the teacher needs to develop as well as the areas in which the teacher wishes to develop himself or herself and his or her teaching. The plan is then compared with the school's needs, and the in-service training program is adjusted to fit both the teacher and the school. Questions like, "Are there already teachers at the school with these qualifications? Can they give the in-service training?" are addressed in the negotiations.
Most frequently one or more teachers participate in a short course, for half a day, one day or some days. Then they often come back with new ideas and experiences and report to their colleges and maybe even engage them in developing the teaching.
This can be more difficult for a single teacher. Therefore some schools have the policy to send at least two teachers to the same program. Such shorter programs may be arranged at the local school or in the local community at some other school or at some other place. Some commercial interests also offer such programs for teachers as well as teacher training departments at universities.
More ambitious in-service programs also exist. In this case it is always up to the teacher to decide if she or he wishes to take part. A teacher may attend some courses at the university and, in this case, she or he probably has to use her or his spare time to complete part of the course work. If the course is relevant, a teacher may agree with the head of the school to count some of the work as part of the 13 days of service that are specified in the agreement. Ccurrent examples are courses in discrete mathematics for upper secondary teachers offered at different universities. Many teachers are interested in discrete mathematics since a course in this area has recently been introduced into the upper secondary curriculum. Departments at universities (teacher training departments) also offer courses in mathematics education at a more advanced level than pre-service programs. Such a course would normally require a minimum of 25 days of full-time work. Sometimes a local community supports teachers from their schools to make it possible for them to attend such courses, but there are many communities in Sweden where the budget or struggling economy does not allow for this type of support for teachers.
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