Already next fall, some 300 ultra intelligent 12-year-olds may begin special elite classes in English, math and natural science at a number of Swedish schools.

First these will be trial classes only, but Minister of Education Jan Björklund says the government wants these classes to become permanent. In order to qualify for the special classes, the student has to pass an entrance exam, which each school will work out separately, and this cannot be done until the new school law goes into effect, July 1.

“Nobody’s questioning the elite classes at Adolf Fredrik’s Musikskola, and they begin already when the students are 10,” says Björklund. “I don’t see why it should be more controversial with elite classes just because it’s about math? Half of these classes are connected to math, which is a subject that Swedish schools have lost a lot in lately when it comes to results, so this is crucial when it comes to Sweden’s future ability to compete.”

Students from all across the country are eligible to apply, though not all schools will have elite classes. The National Agency for Education will decide what municipalities and what schools will have them.

All education in the public school system in Sweden is free. There is usually no payment required from students or their parents for teaching materials, school meals, health services or school transport. The regular school year begins at the end of August and runs to the beginning of June the following year.

There is a 9-year compulsory school program for children between the ages of 7-16. If the parents wish, a child may begin school one year earlier, at the age of 6. The most recent curriculum for compulsory education (Lpo 94) took effect in 1994.The curriculum states the school's fundamental values and basic objectives and guidelines. There are also nationally approved syllabi for the various subjects. Each municipality has to decide on a local school plan showing how the schools in that municipality are to be organized and developed.

For more information, see 'Skolverket' - The National Agency for Education


Figuring out new ways to better education standards: Sweden’s Minister of Education, Jan Björklund and Germany's Minister for Family Affairs, Ursula von der Leyen, while visiting the Täppan pre-school in Stockholm. Photo: Mikael Lundgren