2019 OECD Economic Surveys: Sweden 2019

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The Swedish economy is growing steadily, but the expansion has peaked and global uncertainties weigh on the outlook. Monetary and fiscal stimulus has supported the recovery, but is being gradually withdrawn as the economy operates close to full capacity. Strong public finances provide space for fiscal loosening in the case of a downturn, especially as low interest rates reduce monetary policy margins. Beyond a strong economy, Sweden enjoys high well-being, low inequality and strong environmental performance. Nevertheless, some structural issues need to be addressed, notably alleviating obstacles to housing affordability and enhancing the efficiency of public services by seizing the opportunities offered by digitalisation. Maintaining a high level of workforce skills is essential to sustain growth, competitiveness and social cohesion, calling for action to lift educational performance and promote lifelong learning. Against a background of lacklustre school results and increasing segregation, this Survey proposes a coherent set of reforms to strengthen education institutions, better target funding to pupils’ needs, enhance the steering of competition and school choice, increase the attractiveness of the teaching profession and reinforce teacher education.


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Improving school results and equity in compulsory education

Swedish school results declined for two decades following a series of reforms in the early 1990s decentralising the school system and introducing choice, competition and management by objectives. The general aims and direction of reform were not destined to lower results, but weaknesses of reform design and implementation, against the backdrop of a deep recession, likely contributed to falling outcomes. Residential segregation and the current model of competition and choice increase school segregation and likely reduce equality of opportunity. A coherent set of reforms should strengthen central government institutions, rebuild a regional governance structure and increasingly target funding to pupils’ needs. Better steering of competition and school choice implies ensuring that grades fairly represent pupils’ skills and knowledge, that municipalities increasingly take the socio-economic mix of pupils into account in entry and investment decisions, and that entry and expansion of private schools are better coordinated to counter school segregation. Teaching needs to become more attractive to raise the quality of recruitment to the profession and to address current and future teacher shortages by improving teacher education, strengthening continuous learning and instigating more cooperation, feedback and support between colleagues.



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