After having a lecture on Swedish education I thought it would be beneficial to share my experience of working in a pre-school in Sweden.
In 2014 I was given the opportunity to go on a two week work placement in a pre-school, in Sweden as part of my college course. This experience was incredible; giving me the opportunity to become immersed in the culture, meet new people, learn about their education system and compare it to ours.
Children in Sweden start pre-school when they are 1 years old and then go to school when they are 7 years old. You would think that the children would not be as advanced academically as Scottish children. However, this is not the case, the older children were able to write words, write their name, sing songs in Swedish and other languages too. Some children were able to speak some English along with their own language.
The difference in education systems was huge and it enlightened me of how our education system should be more like Sweden’s. The children have more freedom in their learning and take control in their play. The play is not structured like what it is in Scotland and I feel this works better as the children are choosing what they would like to play with either indoors or outdoors. If the children do not want to take part in an activity they do not have to. The children were able to go outside and play whenever they wanted even if it was raining or snowing, they would just put on more layers of clothing. I was so shocked that the children were allowed out in weather like that as in Scotland if it is raining the children are kept inside. The weather did not affect the children in Sweden at all, they wanted to go out and play in the rain and snow. So why in Scotland do we not allow children to have fun playing in the rain and snow?
It was exciting to see how the fun learning environment created through outdoor learning enhanced the children’s experiences. The children were outdoors for half the day regardless of the weather. The resources the setting had was amazing and provided the children with many play opportunities. Some of the resources were swings, climbing frames, bikes, scooters, sports equipment and sand pits built into the ground. The tarmac on the ground was a road so the children could use it when playing on the bikes, trikes and scooters. The health and safety was much less strict like what it is in Scotland. One day we went a walk in the woods where hot food was taken and we had our meal in the woods. Children were allowed to climb up trees and explore the woods. The children were having a lot of fun and I felt this is something Scottish education is missing. The staff were very relaxed and calm when the children were climbing on things and exploring. I feel when children in Scotland are taken on a trip some members of staff can get a bit stressed and worried about if a child is going to hurt themselves.
The setting in Sweden is much homelier and had more space for children to play. They had different rooms for the different ages of children. The 0-3 year olds were in one room and the 4-6 year olds were in another room. There were two 0-3 year
old rooms and two 4-6year old rooms. These rooms were kept
open so the children could float between the rooms. The room doors were only closed when the little ones were having a nap. However, the room doors were never locked. The children napping were in a
different room altogether which was located just off of the 0-3 year old room. Other children could still use the main room but they just had to be quieter. All the doors had huge windows on them from top to bottom which made the setting a lot brighter. The widows were big and started
from the floor which made it easier for the children to see out of and it made the setting a lot brighter. There was a huge open space in the middle of the setting that was used for games that took up a lot of space. For example, when playing with big blocks. There were also activities that were held every day in this space for the children. For
example, just dance was put on for the children. The setting had a wet room where an adult would take children in and they could play with water, paint and shaving foam. The children were allowed to paint on the walls, paint each other and wet each other.
In every room there is an unfinished work tray for every child and this is where the children would put their unfinished work. The children were not put under pressure to finish their work as they knew they could come back to it. This is a great idea as it means children will not rush their work and will take greater pride in their work as they know they have spent a lot of time on it. They also know that they can come back to it and it will always be there for them to finish.
During meal times the children and staff eat together which I thought was an amazing idea and could see all the benefits. The children were learning table manners, social skills and the different types of allergies. The children would go up and get their own food from the age of 2 years old. The children were developing an awareness of some of the allergies the children had. For example, one child aged 4 told me that another child had to use a different milk, butter and cheese because it gave them a sore tummy. There were set meal times for each group of children. However, if a child did not want to eat at that particular time they were not forced to, they were allowed to eat later with another group of children.
The communication between staff and parents was excellent. When the children came in the parents would speak to the staff about anything that may have happened or information that they should know. If there was any important information this was put up on the board. When the parents came to pick up their child a member of staff would mention any information they should be aware of. For example, if children nap during the day the parent would tell the member of staff when they usually go for a nap and for how long. The member of staff writes this on the board and the child’s nap time is recorded each day and communicated to the parent(s).
All the staff are super with the children and get involved in their play. If a child asks to do something they will try their best to implement it. Meetings are carried out all the time to ensure the children are getting the best opportunities possible. All the staff know exactly what is going on in the setting and know where they are meant to be in order to provide supervision. There was no one time where there were children not supervised while playing outside or inside. If any child has difficulties at home the staff are aware of that
The children in the setting were extremely independent compared to children in Scotland. For example, children from 3 years old were able to put on their outdoor clothing without very much assistance. The children wanted to try and do it for themselves and if they couldn’t do it they wanted shown how to instead of someone doing it for them.
Something I was not aware of while working in Sweden was that they do not receive any inspections as the government trust they are doing a good job. I feel that in Scottish education we are not trusted so it is why inspections need to be carried out.
Overall, I feel that Scotland should be taken some of Sweden’s ideas of education if not all of it. I feel in Sweden children have more choice in what they do, have more freedom in their play and have better experiences of outdoor learning. Over the years Scotland have tried to implemented more outdoor learning, however I feel that this has not yet met its full potential. Children are still kept indoors when there is the smallest bit of rain or snow.