Internet—unknown territory for older generations
According to a study from Stiftelsen för Internetinfrastruktur more than 1.3 million Swedes over age 50 are not using the Internet. When people in this age group were asked why they are not using the Internet, most said they weren’t interested. But more serious reasons may be that Internet access is too expensive or that aging vision or motor skills create obstacles. Close to 60 percent of all the older Swedes in this group are people with a lack of education, and most of them are women. Curt Persson, Director of Pensionärernas riksorganisation PRO (the National Pensioners’ Organization), views the rising costs as one of the reasons older people haven’t been able to learn to use the Internet. “This is an important issue. It can be very costly if you cannot connect to Internet, not only because you’re left behind, but also because you have to pay extra when dealing with bank errands for instance,” Persson says. “Society is changing and if we want one that’s functioning, then we must make all services available to all citizens and it must be something worth investing in.” PRO is now running a number of workshops and classes on Internet use and has gotten financial aid from Microsoft to do so. “If we want to change our society into one where Internet communication is a possibility for everyone, then perhaps we should think in the same terms we did a number of years ago, when employers were allowed to improve themselves, and there were subsidizations to buy computers.”

Crowded pre-schools
A fifth of all children’s classes in Swedish pre-schools consists of 21 or more children. Today there are more than 4,800 children’s classes, and the larger ones—even among the really small children—are getting numerous according to statistics from Skolverket (the National Agency for Education). Last fall 458,000 children were registered at pre-schools around the country, an increase of 11,900 children from the previous year. More children than ever are going to pre-school, and today 83 percent of all 1- to 5-year-olds are registered there. Ten years ago, that number was 66 percent. The number of big groups (with 21 children or more) has also increased: There were 220 more large groups than the previous year. Eighteen percent of all the classes today are big, compared to 15 percent in 2003. In every third pre-school class there are children ages 0-3 years, and the groups with these small children are also getting bigger. “For children with special needs and really small children, the bigger groups are not good,” says Carina Hall at Skolverket in a press release. The number of teachers is, at the same time, decreasing. Last fall there was an average of 5.4 children per teacher, compared to 2006, when there were 5.1 children per teacher. The new school law, which will go into effect on July 1, will have the pedagogical demands on pre-schools sharpened in order to promote development, creativity and learning. According to Skolverket, the trend with bigger children’s groups is a worrisome one, as it affects the quality of learning.

Altenberg charms with secret book
Karin Altenberg is a Swedish archeologist who stumbled on a true story and spent years writing it, in secret. The book is called “Island of Wings” and it was written in English, it centers on a missionary who arrives to a small town on the island St Kilda, off the Hebrides, during the 1830’s. “The book was based on research,” Altenberg explains. She wrote it while working at the Swedish Embassy in London, and she wrote in absolute secrecy, telling nobody. “Now it’s easier for my friends to understand what I was doing all that time!” Writes Michael Arditti about the book in the British Daily Mail: “Altenberg has found a powerful storyline, limpid prose style and moral force that are all her own.”

Fewer women take husband’s name
Fewer Swedish women are taking their husband’s name when they marry, according to recent statistics. In the 1980’s, Magnus Fontes was a bit of a pioneer when he instead adopted his wife Nadia’s last name. “It’s great having a unique name,” he says. His original name was Lindström, a name his wife didn’t want. “I saw Fontes as a more defined name and have no regrets, although at first we were met by snickers and raised eyebrows.” It’s also become more common to take a new name together as a newly wed couple. “Our name is an important part of our identity,” explains Eva Brylla, who does research in names. “The biggest reason why we share a last name is that we want to declare that we belong together as a family. It also signals the beginning of something new.” The law of names that came in 1982 made it possible for couples to chose between different names, although at first few did. Today many feel it is old-fashioned for the woman to take the husband’s name, but in fact it wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that it became common practice to do so. Statistics Sweden shows that during the 21st century, the percentage of women who take their husbands’ names has decreased from 71% in 2005, to 62% in 2010. Something that makes Swedish politician and well-known feminist Gudrun Schyman happy: “In the old days it was as if the woman somehow belonged to the man, but now when we marry it means we don’t disappear completely. The woman doesn’t have to give up her identity.”