In Sweden, schools change: they avoid the use of screens and return to textbooks

Has Sweden gone too far in digitizing its schools? That is what the center-right government thinks, which blames the screens for the drop in student performance.

60 million euros will be allocated to re-equip classrooms with manuals in a country where children are exposed to screens from kindergarten.

The Swedish government backs down. On May 15, Education Minister Lotta Edholm decided to bury the strategy presented in 2022 by the National School Education Agency on digital learning.

The minister had already expressed her doubts in an article published in the Expressen newspaper on December 21, recalls Le Monde.

In the note, he described the use of this technology in schools as an “experiment” and expressed warning about the “uncritical attitude that nonchalantly regards digitization as a good thing, regardless of its content”which leads to “putting aside” textbooks, which, he noted, have “advantages that no tablet can replace.”

The Executive has decided to allocate 60 million euros this year and 44 million euros annually in 2024 and 2025, so that paper manuals return to the classroom, and that each child receives a book for each subject.

The teachers’ vision

Tablet in hand, a boy controls an insect robot. “We teach children programming and the fact that the robot is controlled by the human being,” Pär Thunvnik, director of a kindergarten in the south of the capital, told RFI.

There are no limits or recommendations on the use of screens. It is a tool like any other at school. In fact, this morning, the children are in the middle of a painting workshop, using paper and colors that stain.

“We know what to do with the screens, but parents are worried because they think we use them at home: to watch movies, YouTube videos… That’s passive consumption, but here we want them to produce things with them”defend.

Tablet vs history-geography book

At the exit, Alexander, father of two young children, trusts the institutions: “Maybe if we introduce young people to screens at an early age, they will be less fascinated… because they always want what they can’t have.”

Andreas, for his part, is worried about his eldest son, 13 years old: he can’t write by hand, he scribbles. He learned by looking at a screen and pressing a keyboard. He also can’t read handwritten texts very well.

In reality, screen use varies wildly from school to school, which is why it’s so hard to really gauge its impact. “We can see that children learn worse with digital media. But it depends a lot on the teachers and the content,” argues Annette Sundqvist, a pediatric neuroscience researcher.

Will the return of the old textbooks be enough to raise the academic level of Swedish children? The debate is served.

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