There are many stories of Sweden being a Utopia: a high-tax, massively regulated and politicized, anti-capitalism, egalitarian socialist society that not only works — it thrives. Each and every one of them is nothing but a lie, even though there are many Swedes who will tell you how wonderful it is — they refuse to see the truth even though they live it everyday.
Recently yet another myth of the Swedish socialist supremacy was revealed to be completely untrue: the exquisite quality of Swedish public education. "Preliminary" statistics of the current state of Swedish public schooling made available by the Swedish National Agency for Education show the continuing degeneration of the so-called Swedish Model — and that it is ever increasing. After having spent nine mandatory years in school, 11.4% of Swedish children don’t meet the requirements to go to high school.
Of course, in other countries this might not be such a big deal. But it is in Sweden — a country where an education and a university degree is a human right. Also, the requirements to go to high school are set on such an absurdly low level that no one should be able to not make it.
For starters, in the requirement only three subjects actually count: mathematics, Swedish, and English. These are the "core" subjects, and you need to get a "pass" in all three in order to be able to go to high school. One would think this is not too tough a requirement.
However, it is much easier than it would seem. The Swedish schooling system doesn’t really have grades — there are only three "grades": pass, pass with distinction, and pass with even more distinction. (The latter of the three is awarded some students, but it was originally designed in such a way that no one was supposed to get it — in the name of "equality" of course.) So the grading system in Swedish schools doesn’t allow anyone to fail, it simply isn’t possible to get anything less than "pass."
The only way to not meet the requirement is to get a "not pass," which is a last way out for teachers who really, really cannot award the "pass" grade. "Not pass" is, however, a non-grade, it doesn’t count if you get it, and it is intended for those youngsters who never bother to show up (which is only possible if you manage to stay away from your parents, school teachers, as well as the police, since not being in school is a crime).
The problem with the statistics released by the Swedish National Agency for Education is thus not that some pupils don’t work hard enough and therefore don’t get good enough grades to meet the requirements to go to high school. There is no big deal to this requirement — whatever grades you get is sufficient. The problem is there are 11.4% of the young people not even capable of getting a grade. Actually, they are not even capable in getting a grade at all in the only three subjects that count — three out of the ten on a normal ninth grader’s schedule.
And only the grades of the last semester of the ninth grade count, so even if you have managed to get a "not pass" in previous semesters you are still home free if you show up, even if only to do nothing, for the last semester…
There is still a lot of whitewash one can think of to make this situation seem less horrific than it really is. For instance, one could claim that Swedish schools try to teach Swedish youth too advanced theories making it impossible for a great number of them to grasp the concepts. This is attempted by the authorities, and I would guess a lot of Swedes actually believe it.
But the level of difficulty at Swedish schools is brought down to ever less advanced levels — it is now nowhere close to the level taught when I was myself in ninth grade (which would be little more than fifteen years ago). Also, even though the difficulty is constantly set to a lower level, the number of people not being able to meet the requirements grows at an ever increasing rate: according to official statistics from 8.6% in 1997 to 10.5% in 2006 — and now to 11.4% in 2007 (however a "preliminary" figure).
The problem goes much deeper than anyone in Sweden wants to realize, and it is spreading fast. There have been reports the last few years about the growing problem of high school graduates in Sweden not being able to either read or count properly. It is simply a matter of time until these problems spread to the colleges and universities.
What we are seeing here is nothing but the inevitable result of state socialism when the children of the welfare state behave in their own interest according to the logic of the nanny state. The welfare way to a good life is not to make it yourself, it is simply to need it and demand it. Let "the others" (whoever they are) do all the work.
But does it work? Not for long, as we will soon see.
Per Bylund [send him mail] is a PhD student in economics at the University of Missouri—Columbia and the founder of Anarchism.net. Visit his website www.PerBylund.com or his blog where he comments on this article and more.