Swedish children who returned to school were in for a surprise: instead of the tablets and digital devices introduced in recent years in the belief that they improve learning, they found physical books, notebooks, paper and pens used by their parents. The new Education Minister, Carlotta “Lotta” Edholm, who has been in office for 11 months in the center-right coalition, has decided to return to old teaching systems, reversing a trend that has already introduced tablets into nursery school classrooms. “Swedish students need more textbooks and fewer computers,” Edholm declared in March. The results of an international survey, repeated every five years, convinced the government to reinstate quieter reading times in schools, with texts written by hand in beautiful handwriting and research conducted in books rather than online, which measures reading ability. For students aged between nine and ten years. The research, called the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), already highlighted in 2021 that Swedish children entering fourth grade achieved an average of 544 points, a lower value compared to 555 points in 2016. PIRLS is examining children Schools as they move from school to school. “Learning to Read” to “Reading to Learn” effectively measures their ability to use reading to learn new concepts.
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Many experts have attributed this decline to the excessive use of digital tools that leave less time for thinking and the need to assimilate knowledge with the slowness that this mental process requires.
The low reading ability of Swedish students still keeps them in an excellent position in the world, as it ranks seventh alongside Taiwan, behind Singapore, which tops the ranking with 587 points, Hong Kong, the Russian Federation, England, Finland, and Poland. Italy (537) is a little behind, but ahead of Germany, France, Austria and Portugal.
Edholm said he wants to put an end to all forms of digital teaching for children under the age of six, so that it does not affect their ability to learn. In his opinion, tablets in nursery schools have led to a sharp decline in basic skills, even in schools. Part of the teachers who often entrust computers with the educational role they should perform.
It is clear that not everyone liked the government’s decision, and it was feared that children would find the school a boring and old-fashioned environment that does not match the reality of the world around them, and is more dynamic and fun. It was also believed that the decline in reading ability was due to Covid or the arrival of many immigrant children who do not yet speak Swedish well, but Lotta Edholm responded to the criticism by citing research from the Karolinska Institutet, one of the world’s most important universities. Medicine World, which selects the Nobel Prize winner each year: “There is clear scientific evidence that digital tools harm student learning rather than improve it. We believe that the focus should return to acquiring knowledge through printed textbooks and teachers’ expertise, rather than acquiring knowledge primarily from freely available digital sources that have not been verified for accuracy.
UNESCO recently expressed the same concern, publishing in August a report in which it launched an “urgent call for the appropriate use of technology in education.” While all countries should accelerate internet connections in schools, the report says, digital devices should never replace high-quality teacher-led education. So Eldom is forging ahead: while governments in the rest of Europe are allocating money to provide more computers in schools, the Swedish government has decided to spend 500 million kroner (equivalent to 42 million euros) a year to get books back into classrooms and back again. To understand what is written.
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