Article Sweden: Mandatory Kindergarten Approved

(Dec. 14, 2017) On November 15, 2017, the Swedish Parliament voted approval of a law to make förskoleklass (similar to kindergarten) mandatory.  The law is set to enter into force in January 2018, with the first mandatory förskoleklass to start in August of 2018.  (Skolstart vid sex års ålder [School Starts at Age Six], Utbildningsutskottets betänkande [Education Committee Report] 2017/18:UbU7, RIKSDAGEN, Nov. 15, 2017; Utbildningsutskottets betänkande 2017/18:UbU7: Skolstart vid sex års ålder [Education Committee Report 2017/18:UbU7: School Starts at Age Six] (Report), RIKSDAGEN.)

Förskoleklass 

The förskoleklass was added in 1998 as a nonmandatory part of the Swedish school system, meant to ease the gap between daycare/preschool and school.  (Report, supra, at 6.)  Students start förskoleklass in the fall of the year they turn six years old (January 1-December 31).  Currently, it is estimated that almost 98% of Swedish children attend förskoleklass, while 1.7% of six-year-old children do not attend any type of school.

The purpose of making förskoleklass attendance mandatory, according to the committee proposal, was that it would ensure that the estimated 2,000 children who do not attend förskoleklass would attend in the future and thus become better prepared for the first year of primary school.  It would also ensure that children who already attend förskoleklass do so full-time – that is, all five days of the school week.  (Report, supra, at 8, 10-11.)  The Education Committee also considered the circumstance that from an international perspective, students start mandatory schooling relatively late in Sweden.  (Id. at 8.)  Under the new rules, children may start the kindergarten class early or delay it if there are special reasons for waiting.  (Report, supra, add. 2, 7 kap. 11 §, 7 kap. 10 § 2st Skollagen [Education Act], as proposed.)

Currently, compulsory school starts in first grade, the year a child turns seven.  (7 kap. 4 och 10 §§ Skollagen [Education Act] (Svensk författningssamling [SFS] 2010:800), NOTISUM.)

There have been no material changes made to the form of education that will be afforded students who attend föreskoleklass, and “play and creativity” will continue to be an integral part of the förskoleklass experience.  There will be no new national curriculum or educational requirements set for this age group, but teachers are expected to provide the students an education suitable for the children’s development.  (Report, supra, at 8.)  Consequently, there will be no right to special help to meet the requirements for each grade level, a right now given only at grades 1 and above (ages that have knowledge requirements).  (3 kap. 5a § and 8 § Skollagen).

The förskoleklass will meet under the same conditions as grade 1 – that is, it will not meet for more than 190 days a year and six hours a day.  (Report, supra, add. 2, 7 kap. 17 § 2 st Skollagen, as proposed), and lunch and transportation must be provided free of charge to the students.  (Id. at 9.)

As with mandatory education today, legal guardians will be responsible for ensuring that the children in their charge attend förskoleklass.  (Report, add. 2 , 7 kap. 23 Skollagen, as proposed.) Failure to do so is sanctioned with monetary fines.  (Id.)

Criticism

 The proposed legislation has been criticized by the political opposition for not going far enough, because it does not create a new curriculum or educational goals.  According to the opposition,  there are discrepancies in education across the country because of the lack of uniform standards, which they argue is unacceptable when education is compulsory.  They have instead proposed that students start grade 1 at the age of six and primary school be extended by one additional year.  (Press Release, Camilla Waltersson Grönvall et al., Alliansen: Fel att behålla förskoleklass [Wrong to Keep Förskoleklass] (Oct. 4, 2017), MODERATERNA.)

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