Itâ€™s been more than a month since my last postcard from Sweden. The reason for the pause is just that other activities have intervened and not that political developments here suddenly have turned in a radically different and positive direction. Not at all!
The parties forming our present government who are eagerly engaged in burying the old Swedish model probably sense that voters will through them out in the upcoming elections (in September). Thus they try to sneak in as much of their ideological stuff as possible, hoping that some of it may be irreversible.
I have reported on the plummeting Swedish ranking in the PISA studies, which indicates that our school system, once one of the best in the world, is more or less decaying. This deplorable process happens to coincide with radical privatizations of schools, followed by dismantling of resources like libraries, school nurses, special teachers for the children most in need and other cutbacks favorable for profits.
As one would expect we can now watch the â€œeconomic scientistsâ€ rush to save the tatters of credibility for capitalism in schools left by our right wing governmentâ€™s experiments. Thus our most prestigious newspaper (Dagens Nyheter) the other day had an op-ed by three economists representing something called the Center for Market Reform of Education (there is no modesty or lack of resources when economic power strives to commercialize life in all its aspects).
The defense line that the three â€œscientistsâ€ draw is to reject simple correlations as proof of causality. (This is of course not a day too early, since simple correlation is the very oxygen that popular economics breathes.) The fact that privatization and plummeting outcome coincides is of course not a proof that the one causes the other. But there are other indications of causation between the two observations.
It has been established that private schools give high, false grades (unlike public schools), a temptation apparently hard to resist in a competitive business. If these grades then are being used to demonstrate good performance by private schools its naturally doubly fraudulent. I mentioned the dismantling of privatized schools, a confirmed and widespread phenomenon which hardly can lead to any quality improvements. Furthermore shallow testimony indicates that some private schools are popular among student by being pleasant and laid back, another attractive lure.
The Swedish decay is also visible in other sectors, one of which is health care. The CEO of the Swedish pharmaceutical companies’ trade association wrote the other day about the decline in health care indicators, despite the fact that a large majority of the population regards this area as one of the most important in politics. A measurement called Euro Health Consumer Index, rating the health performance in EU countries from the patientsâ€™ perspective, has recently been released. It shows that Sweden has fallen from 6th to 11th place in just the last year.
Another undeniable drop in our performance is revealed by the OECD statistics on life expectancy. From enjoying the forth longest life-span 20 years ago we have now fallen to eighth place. We have been used to see our country in the very top of all socio-economic rankings since ages. Now we are a former welfare super power in sharp decline. This is certainly not what ordinary people want, but itâ€™s obviously an inescapable ultimate consequence of the adaptation to a â€œglobalizedâ€, neoliberal world, constructed by the economic powerful with the purpose to enrich the already rich at the expense of people in real need.
This is something really worth fighting against!