Lack of time prevents Swedish schools from embracing science

Press release 7 October 2013

Schoolteachers in Sweden do not have the time to fully integrate scientific principles into their teaching.  This is the finding of a national survey conducted by VA (Public & Science).

The Swedish Education Act states that all education must be grounded in scientific principles. To investigate how this works in practice, 2,000 pre-school teachers, teachers and school managers in Sweden were asked by VA about their views on the role of science in education and their contact with researchers.

“Teachers and school leaders are fundamentally positive towards research and have greater confidence in the way researchers conduct their work than the population at large. At the same time, the responses show that it is difficult for schools to successfully integrate science into their teaching with current resources and organisational structures,” said Karin Larsdotter, Research Manager at VA, who is responsible for the study.

Four out of five believe that having qualified teachers is the single most important prerequisite for a school to be able to deliver education based on scientific principles. Three out of five believe that it is very important that teachers adopt a scientific approach in their teaching. Least important is for teachers to carry out research themselves.

Over half of the respondents believe that it is very important to use teaching methods based on pedagogical and didactic research. A similar proportion think it is very important to keep up to date with research relating to the subject they teach. Nine out of ten have made use of new research in their lessons over the last twelve months.

Seven out of ten teachers believe that a shortage of time is a major problem that prevents them from linking the content of the subjects they teach to research and from adapting teaching methods according to new research. Eight out of ten see time constraints as a barrier to teachers having more contact with researchers. The second biggest obstacle is considered to be the school’s budget.

The survey shows no major differences of opinion about integrating scientific principles between staff in private schools and state-run schools. However, teachers and school managers have different views on what they consider to be the biggest obstacles. When it comes to making contact with researchers, four out of five teachers say that a shortage of time is a major barrier, whereas only one in two school managers are of a similar opinion. Teachers also believe that a lack of support from their management can be a barrier, something that school managers rarely agree with.

“The clear differences of opinion between teaching staff and school managers is problematic. A shared view of the opportunities and barriers is a prerequisite for successfully running a school based on scientific principles,” said Karin Larsdotter.

The survey shows that schools and teachers find it difficult to meet the demands of the curriculum and policy documents.

“The ‘assignment’ for head teachers, school boards and politicians is to secure and ideally earmark time and money for research-related training in schools,” said Karin Larsdotter.

The survey was conducted in autumn 2012 by SCB (Statistics Sweden) using their database of teaching staff. The response rate was 46 percent. The study is part of a three-year project School Meets Science run jointly by VA and the Skåne Research Network with the support of the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation.

Access the report “Skolans syn på vetenskap”(How schools view science) here. The report contains a summary in English.

For more information, contact:
Karin Larsdotter, Acting Director of Research of VA (Public & Science)  0046 (0)8-791 30 54 / 0046 (0)70-255 38 91
Cissi Askwall, Secretary General of VA (Public & Science) 0046 (0)70 626 44 74

High resolution portrait images for publication:

Cissi Askwall and Karin Larsdotter: http://v-a.se/om-va/press/pressbilder/

VA (Public & Science) promotes dialogue and openness between researchers and the public. The organisation works to create new forms of dialogue about research. VA is also developing new knowledge on the relationship between research and society through surveys and studies. Its members consist of 80 organisations, authorities, companies and associations. In addition, it has a number of individual members. For more information visit www.v-a.se/in-english/


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