International Panel on Policy and Practice
in Mathematics Education: 2001 Report

Appendix F: Balance of Power and Inputs in the Swedish System

A general structure into which the various "constituencies" involved in the Swedish education system fit is described below, including the authorities, bodies and lobby-groups. In general, there are three sectors:

I. The political system, public authorities and society in general (i.e. industry)
II. School, teachers, teacher education
III. The academic world

I. Political world, society in general

A. National level

Riksdagen (the Swedish Parliament) has decided upon The Education Act as well as other laws governing the school system. The Parliament also decides on curricula and syllabi for subject matters. There is a permanent committee for education within the Parliament where all political parties are represented. In this committee all propositions from the government are discussed and prepared before a decision is made in the Parliament. The government and the Ministry of Education (Utbildningsdepartementet) prepare propositions to the Swedish parliament and issue various regulations concerning the implementation of the laws.

The Ministry is organized in two sections: the Higher Education and Research section and the School section and had two ministers in July 2001. The minister of Higher Education and Research (Tomas Östros) leads the ministry and is directly responsible for higher education (undergraduate and graduate) and research. The ministry has an on-going dialogue with all institutions offering higher education. A special minister of School (Ingeg&aouml;rd Wernersson) is responsible for childcare (pre-school), primary and secondary education. The ministry has an on-going dialogue with the confederation of municipalities and with individual municipalities.

The Parliament or the government commission various groups of politicians or experts to investigate specific areas and propose means to provide solutions to current problems or reform part of the system. The experts may belong to sectors II or III.


  • Expert group for a reformed teacher education during 1997-1999.
  • Expert group for a reformed structure and content of the upper secondary school (the gymnasium) commissioned by the government in 2001.

The National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket) is the central authority responsible for monitoring and evaluating higher education, research, and research education as well as for investigating specific topics when commissioned by the government. It is linked to the corresponding section of the Ministry. Various expert and reference groups also contribute. Sometimes some or all members belong to sectors II and III.


  • Expert group during 1998 and 1999 for investigating and suggesting actions to improve the situation related to transition problems from secondary to tertiary level, caused by lack of mathematics competence among beginners at university. Report 1999. Expected government decision in 2001.
  • Reference group for mathematics in higher (i.e., tertiary) education during 1997 - 1999.

The National Agency for Education (Skolverket) is the central authority responsible for monitoring and evaluating all schools. It is linked to the corresponding section of the ministry. The Agency is responsible for providing national tests and guidelines for assessing these.


Current projects involving mathematics: "Desire to learn" and "Basic skills."

Various experts, project groups and reference groups of teachers and representatives of different communities attached to the National Agency for Education for revision of syllabuses and for carrying through projects.

Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv)
Professional Organization for Engineers (Civilingenjörsförbundet)

B. Regional and local level

The Regional offices of the National Agency for Education act with great independence. The National Agency for Education is currently (in 2001) implementing a new and decentralized organization. Municipalities (289 in all) have a great freedom to shape their local educational policy. Each municipality must appoint a political committee for public education. The committee works out the school plan agreed by the municipality. The school plan specifies the measures to be taken in order to achieve the national targets.

II School, teachers and teacher education

A. National level

Universities deliver education and training for future teachers within specific teacher training programs and within more general degree programs. Starting in 2001 all education and training for future teachers will be offered within one comprehensive program with a great number of options as for levels, subjects and so on. Universities may and sometimes do co-operate when designing programs in order to get better co-ordination.

National Centre for Mathematics Education (NCM) at Gothenburg University has a general time-limited commission from the government to provide mathematics teaching and learning resources for schools and teachers. NCM investigates and suggests a program for competency development of mathematics teachers. This is a special commission from the government given in 2000. The report will be delivered to the government in 2001. Closely attached to the National Centre for Mathematics Education is the editorial board of Nämnaren, a journal targeting mathematics teachers, especially at primary and lower secondary level. Every second year the Biennalen-movement sponsors a three-day-long conference for mathematics teachers, which gathers several thousand participants who take part in hundreds of lectures and workshops. Various experts, project groups and reference groups of teachers and representatives of different communities are attached to the National Agency for Education for revision of syllabuses and for carrying through projects. The Association for Teachers in Mathematics (SMaL) organizes mostly teachers at primary and secondary level. The Association for teachers of Mathematics, Science and Technology (LMNT) organizes mostly teachers at upper secondary level. There is a network for mathematics teacher educators, LUMA-network. Finally, authors of mathematics textbooks for use in school also influence what is taught.

B. Regional and local level

Each school has to develop and agree on a plan for education, teaching and learning in which the curriculum and other steering documents are interpreted in the local environment. Mathematics teachers at every school are responsible for the mathematics education plan and for choosing educational material and methods, all within the frame of the national curriculum and the national mathematics syllabus. The freedom at the local level to interpret the curriculum and to make concrete the syllabus is considerable. Each municipality and each school has to prepare a written quality assessment report every year with the achievements relative the national goals and steps required where the objectives have not been reached. Some schools have one teacher responsible for mathematics who is assigned by the head to co-ordinate the planning, support colleagues, and work out competence development plans. Every teacher is responsible for the teaching, assessing and grading of his or her students. The assessment is based on the national assessment program and on locally decided assessment. Also, local or regional sections of mathematics teachers associations are very active in some regions.

Each university with the right to offer teacher education and do the examining of teachers has the freedom and responsibility to define and create the goals and content of the teacher education within the overall goals and a general structure decided by the parliament and government. Until now the structure and content of different teacher education programs have been specified in some detail in a national plan set down by the Parliament. The new teacher education adopted in 2001 leaves more freedom to the universities.

Each university and each faculty offering teacher education must have a specific committee for teacher education. This is an exception from the otherwise stated competence of each university board to organize the committees for research and education at each faculty according to the local needs.

III The academic world

Royal Swedish Academy of Science (KVA) has set up a permanent national committee for mathematics. There is also a Swedish ICMI-committee, (ICMI-SE) which is linked to KVA. The committee incorporates representatives of school and teacher education as well as higher education and research. Other groups are the Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA), The Swedish Society for Mathematics Education Research, SMDF, the PRIM-group within the University of Education (Lärarhögskolan) at Stockholm, which is a research and development group for mathematics assessment. The group is commissioned by the National Agency for School to provide national tests in mathematics for compulsory school and the course A at upper secondary level. Edmeas (Educational Measurements), Universities, and the Swedish Mathematical Society (SMS) constitute the remaining constituencies.

Edmeas (Educational Measurements) is situated within Umeå University. This group is commissioned to provide national tests in mathematics for upper secondary level except the course A. Both PRIM and Edmeas cooperate intensively with groups of experienced teachers for suggesting problems and evaluating the tests. Universities, besides offering teacher education, also represent the receivers of students from upper secondary schools: future mathematicians, engineers, economists and other professionals in all areas. The Swedish Mathematical Society (SMS) organizes professional mathematicians and others. A number of upper secondary mathematics teachers are also members of the society.

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