Graduation is coming up at schools in the U.S. as well as in Sweden. And as the time for the summer holidays nears in Sweden, so does the debate over where and how graduation may look. The same debate heated up before the Christmas break last year, and many school principals feel as confused now as they did then.
However, a clearer law may be in the works. Experts are investigating the loaded question of religion and tradition within the school framework.

The Swedish hymn we're using for the headline sounds like this: Svenska Körklassiker - Den blomstertid nu kommer


So far it’s OK to have graduation inside a church, which is the tradition, as long as the pastor does not say a prayer or a blessing. That’s the summary of the guidelines as developed by Skolverket (the Swedish National Agency for Education), since the Swedish school and its activities must remain non-denominational.
However, the school, celebrations and belief issues undoubtedly raise emotions, which is why Jan Björklund and Göran Hägglund (Ministers for Education and Health and Social Affairs) announced a change in the law.

Thus, in January an investigation was added by utbildningsdepartementet (the Ministry of Education), with the mission to “consider and propose certain changes in the Education Act in terms of facilities and features at graduations and other celebrations.”

Investigator Ingegärd Hilborn says, “We are supposed to look over the possibilities to open up what’s linked to tradition.” Hilborn doesn’t want to explain exactly what that means yet. But, she notes that the school principals easily get caught in between the Education Act, what the parents want (strong wishes for a traditional graduation), and the Church’s view on what a graduation ought to look like.
The chairman of Sveriges Skolledarförbund (the Swedish Association of School Principals and Directors of Education), Matz Nilsson, looks forward to clearer guidelines in the law: “The way it is now, they leave it to the principals to interpret. That’s not good, and some principals have been subjected to attacks and pressure.” While waiting for the new law proposal, there are several solutions: In Fridlevstad, the pastor and the school principal have decided upon a graduation in the church, where the principal is to hold the traditional speech, and those students who wish may stay when it’s the pastor’s turn.

“It’s just not in my world to back down from my job,” says pastor Ann-Louise Trulsson. “Now I can do and say what the Church’s regulation gives me permission to. Prayer, blessings, hymns and meditation are all part of that.”