More math in Swedish primary school. Mosque in Fittja first with call to prayer? Swedes making over 1 million SEK. Swedish sourdough to London. Scandinavians training Syrian rebels.
More math in Swedish primary school
Jan Bjorklund, Sweden's Minister for Education, has made sure students in primary school are getting 120 hours more of math. "If there should be an increase in hours of math, then we feel that ought to be done early,” says Anna Ekström, general director of Skolverket (the Swedish National Agency for Education). “It’s in those ages when Swedish children need to train on basic skills in math.” Last spring, the government took the decision to commission Skolverket to further educate teachers in math. Not only in mathematics, but also in didactics. Björklund admitted early on that it was unusual for the state to go into such detail, but that “it is of great national interest that we don’t sit and watch quietly when things have gone so wrong.” The so-called math lift is planned to be a four year process, and the first teachers to continue their education will do so this fall. The price tag for that education alone will be 649 million SEK ($97,152,318). Apart from other efforts, the government is staking 2.6 billion SEK ($3,946,832,264) in total to increase math in school during the coming years. The 120 extra hours will cost 500 million SEK ($75,900,620). Math is the subject where Swedish students have fallen behind the most internationally.
Mosque in Fittja first with call to prayer?
The tolls of church bells might soon be mixed with the sounds of calls to prayer from a mosque in Kista. The call to prayer (known in Islam as “adhan”) is a familiar element in Moslem countries—and now it can be familiar in Sweden too. The Islamic organization in Botkyrka has applied for permission to have the calls from the mosque in Fittja, and if they are granted it, the permission will be the first of its kind in Sweden, according to daily Dagen. When the 32-meters-tall (104 feet) mosque in Fittja was built in 1994, it was written in the detailed plan that no prayers were to be called from the minaret, but in a proposal from Ismael Okur, chairman of the Islamiska föreningen in Botkyrka, it is time to change that. “We’ve lived all our lives in Sweden,” he says to Dagen. “We’ve paid taxes, we’ve been good citizens, and we’ve given much to Sweden. Now we want a little bit in return. Now we want freedom of religion.” The Botkyrka Planning Board supports the proposal, which will be discussed with the Municipal Executive Board and the Municipal Council. The only political party in the municipality against the proposal is Kristdemokraterna (The Christian Democrats). “We are for freedom of religion. We are for freedom of expression. And we have nothing against Moslems. But we don’t think it’s up to the municipal competence to form opinions about calls to prayer. That’s a message being proclaimed, that may be deemed offensive to other groups and therefore we see it as an issue for the police,” says Stefan Dayne, member of Kristdemokraterna on the Planning Board in the article in Dagen. Dayne explains that he thinks there’s a difference in church bells tolling and calls to prayer, as there’s a message in the latter. If however the permission goes through, it may open the field for similar cases in other parts of Sweden. The Moslems in Botkyrka would like permission to call out prayers once every Friday, for starters. “If the permission goes through it’s for one prayer call a week, lasting perhaps one to two minutes. It’s not that much,” says Ismael Okur.
Swedes making over 1 million SEK
Almost 48,000 Swedes between the ages of 20 to 64 had over one million SEK ($153,000) in income during 2011, according to Statistiska Centralbyrån (Statistics Sweden). Of them, 83 percent were men, and a little over half of them were living in the greater Stockholm area. Danderyd (a municipality just north of Stockholm) has the highest number of people making one million SEK or more—that's more than one in ten people there. 70 people had a yearly income of over 12 million SEK ($1,836,717), but nobody made over 52 million ($7,957,447) a year.
Swedish sourdough to London
When they opened their bakery Fabrique in 2008, David and Charlotte Zetterstrom were riding part of the Swedish sourdough wave. Today, the couple has seven shops in Stockholm, and soon they’ll open a branch in the trendy London neighborhood, Shoreditch. The two met when they were working at the same bakery: David as a baker and Charlotte in the shop. “Then we both studied and became civil engineers, but continued working at the bakery on the side. So the passion for bread and baking was always part and parcel of our lives,” says Charlotte. Their dream was to own their own bakery where bread was to be made by hand in a traditional way. And this dream became a reality four years ago with Fabrique on Scheelegatan in Stockholm. Since then the number of employees has gone from two to more than 40, and the turnover from 10 to 30 million SEK ($1,530,020 to $4,590,483) in the past two years. “We were lucky to open in 2008 when people were becoming aware of locally made and grown products. We became part of the sourdough trend,” says David. Charlotta adds, “We love London, but we don’t love the bread there. It was in April that we got the idea of opening something there, and soon it is all done. We found beautiful premises, and nearby there’s a micro brewery and an eco store.” David and Charlotte say that Londoners have become more aware of what they eat, but the ecological and locally grown trend has yet to flourish.
To read more about the popularity of sourdough in Sweden (and for a recipe to make your very own dough), check out: http://www.nordstjernan.com/news/food/3768/
Scandinavians training Syrian rebels
According to the Daily Telegraph, two men, "tall with shaven heads, fair skin, bulging pectoral muscles, and biceps covered in tattoos" were working as military advisers at a training camp in Syria’s northern Idlib province. These training camps have been set up in order for the young men to prepare for the fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s military. The two men, who use code names Radwan and Mohammed but don’t speak Arabic, come from Scandinavia but requested their country not be disclosed. They told the Daily Telegraph they were “here to help.” Recruits in the Free Syrian Army told the newspaper that the men were ex-special forces working as military advisers.