Swedish Schools Stayed Open During Pandemic, Didn’t Suffer From Learning Loss

While learning loss is now widely recognized in America in the aftermath of school closures, Swedish school that stayed open didn't suffer.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Swedish schools

There is no denying the facts. Across the nation, the majority of public schools that shuttered their doors for extended periods of time during the COVID pandemic suffered from severe academic learning loss. Those against school closures warned of this impending doom for quite some time, as media outlets far and wide report on grave findings. To make matters even worse further proving the claims of those who felt schools should have never closed in the first place, a new study highlights Swedish schools’ aptitude in education, in the Scandinavian country that never closed school buildings during the pandemic. 

Earlier this month, the International Journal of Educational Research reported that students attending Swedish schools suffered no learning loss during the last few years when COVID wreaked havoc across the globe. This finding is concurrent with reports of how different the country handled closures in the nation, saying that schools remained open, and in turn kept academic levels on par. 

The abstract for the study focused on the fact that Sweden kept primary schools open. Some reports have been misleading, saying that Sweden never closed schools at all. However, this is false, as they did close high schools to deter the spread of the virus. Still, the study concluded that overall, students kept up with grade levels. Students’ scores were recorded no lower during the pandemic than they were before it began in Swedish schools in an analysis from grades one to three.

In general, the matter in which Sweden handled policies during the pandemic was said to be much different than most countries. The government never mandated shutdowns, and most Swedish schools and daycare centers remained open. This was all done in a movement to keep daily life as normal as could be, with the hope to produce quick and effective herd immunity from the COVID virus. 

But despite keeping a business as usual format across the nation, reports suggest that many Swedes still opted to stay home during this time. Likewise, despite some claims, the government did enforce rulings late in March of 2020 that banned gatherings of more than 50 people, along with some nursing home visit restrictions. Contrary to this finding for Swedish schools, in the United States, schoolchildren suffered drastic amounts of reported learning loss.

School closures rolled out a plethora of issues in public schools across the US. As teacher unions pushed for longer school closures, the most vulnerable students at risk for learning loss suffered dramatically. During the 2019-2020 school year, those with reading deficiency rose from 8% up to 37% in the 2020-2021 school year. If the country had followed a similar suit as Swedish schools, that gap could have been extremely mitigated. 

Swedish schools

While it is now widely recognized that American students have suffered greatly from the pandemic, pointing out how other countries may have thrived during this time does little to curb the issue at hand. Instead of focusing on how Swedish schools are doing, education officials and leaders need to pivot attention to the future, and how schools can make up for this loss. The results are in, and now is the time to focus on remediating public education.