Teacher Shortage Leaves Swedish Schools in Crisis Ahead Of New School Year

As families across Sweden prepare for the return to school over the next few weeks, many municipalities are reporting a shortage of teaching staff.

Shortage of primary teachers is getting worse, warns professional body of Education. The national shortage of teaching staff is expected to worsen next year, with around 1,400 vacancies unfilled when children return to school after the summer holidays. The number is higher than at the start of the current school year, when 1,300 positions still had to be filled.

In a survey by Sveriges Radio Ekot, 113 municipalities, or just over half of the 202 who responded, stated that they had a ”big problem” with teacher shortages in local primary schools. Even among those who said the situation was not yet problematic, many believed it could become a problem over the next few years.

Sweden has a shortage of people with specific skills within certain professions. There is, e.g. a great lack of nurses, doctors, system developers, cooks and teachers at the moment and this shortage is predicted to persist over the next five to ten years. In the past few months, there has been growing media coverage about the significant lack of teachers, with an increasing number of vacancies being advertised. According to a recent news report, teachers are needed in 180 localities.

Sweden used to perform handsomely by international comparators; but this has seen an erosion recently, and Sweden has started to slip like oily Lutfisk down the rankings of PISA and TIMSS. There have been many responses to this; one was the Swedish Education Act (2011) which aimed to ‘improve student results and rising the status of the teaching profession’

”We speak about how we should have an equal school system, that all students have the right to the same education. But it’s not equal because we don’t have qualified staff at all of our [schools],” Eva Winarve-Westerholm, who is responsible for preschools and primary schools in Hedemora in central Sweden, told the radio. This was one of the majority of municipalities which had ended up hiring teachers without Swedish teaching certificates, usually a requirement for the roles.

In Sweden, the local municipality has responsibility for running schools, which are all free to attend and follow the Swedish curriculum, although there are also independent schools and private schools run by other companies.

However, the survey showed some signs that the situation was improving. Only 17 municipalities reported that the situation was worse than in previous years, while 56 said it had improved.