Since young children went back to school across Sweden recently, many of their teachers have been putting a new emphasis on printed books, quiet reading time and handwriting practice, and devoting less time to tablets, independent online research and keyboarding skills.
The return to more traditional ways of learning is a response to politicians and experts questioning whether Sweden’s hyper-digitalized approach to education, including the introduction of tablets in nursery schools, had led to a decline in basic skills.
Sweden’s minister for schools, Lotta Edholm, who took office 11 months ago as part of a center-right coalition government, was one of the biggest critics of the all-out embrace of technology.
“Sweden’s students need more textbooks,” Edholm said in March. “Physical books are important for student learning.”
The minister announced in August that the government wanted to reverse the decision by the National Agency for education to make digital devices mandatory in preschools. It plans to go further and to completely end digital learning for children under age six, the ministry has told the Associated Press.
Although Sweden’s students score above the European average for reading ability, an international assessment of fourth-grade reading levels, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), highlighted a decline among Sweden’s children between 2016 and 2021.
In 2021, Swedish fourth graders averaged 544 points, a drop from the 555 average in 2016. However, their performance still placed the country in a tie with Taiwan for the seventh-highest overall test score.
In comparison, Singapore — which topped the rankings — improved its PIRLS reading scores from 576 to 587 during the same period, and England’s average reading achievement score fell only slightly, from 559 in 2016 to 558 in 2021.
Some learning deficits may have resulted from the coronavirus pandemic or reflect a growing number of immigrant students who don’t speak Swedish as their first language, but overuse of screens during school lessons may cause youngsters to fall behind in core subjects, education experts say.
“There’s clear scientific evidence that digital tools impair rather than enhance student learning,” Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, a highly respected medical school focused on research, said in a statement in August on the country’s national digitalization strategy in education.
“We believe the focus should return to acquiring knowledge through printed textbooks and teacher expertise, rather than acquiring knowledge primarily from freely available digital sources that have not been vetted for accuracy.”
Read the full article at: The Guardian.
SOURCE: The Guardian