Let's not play the 'Swedes'

Thesis confirmed: we like to fix other people's problems more than our own.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
06 June 2023 Tuesday 16:46
9 Reads
Let's not play the 'Swedes'

Thesis confirmed: we like to fix other people's problems more than our own. Is it because the former require zero personal effort from us? Or is it because speaking without commitment gives us the veneer of an expert? Be that as it may, the truth is that now, as if we did not have enough of our own, what worries us is to fix the Swedish education system. Who gives more? Match up, gentlemen!

The latest data on reading comprehension in Catalonia and in Spain indicated by the PIRLS 2021 report (International Study of Progress in Reading Comprehension), show, compared to the 2016 study, that Catalonia has decreased by 15 points. At the headline: we are, worryingly, at the tail of Spain and Europe.

PIRLS focuses on “reading as a means to achieve the two purposes present in most of the texts students read in and out of school: to have a literary experience, and to acquire and use information”. Although I don't believe much in educational standards (I was helped by Todd Rose, professor and director of the Laboratory for the Science of Individuality at Harvard, a few years ago when he debunked the false myth of the average student), I do I think we would agree in wishing, for future generations, the enjoyment of literature and the ability to handle good information. In our world of immediacy, of fake news, of borders... perhaps it is urgent to understand, as the future Princess of Asturias, Nuccio Ordine does, that "literature is essential to foster understanding and compassion between people", and put authentic focus. But let's go one step further.

We are skilled at making diagnoses and looking for culprits -to whom or what do we owe the drop in PIRLS?- but some time ago it was nicely suggested to me that guilt is always single, nobody wants it, so let's not stop there. It is also true that when we are ready to reconsider things that are perceived as essential and important, we are experts at unleashing distractors and we allow our analytical gaze to become reductionist. In education we are no less. We just missed the fact that, in the midst of the debate on reading, Sweden announced that it was suspending its plan to digitize schools, to reconsider the eternal school dilemma: screens or textbooks?

Educational innovation is not a fashionable practice. When it is sustainable and puts the student at the center as the greatest force for existing change, they know that it is not a matter of "either, or" but rather a matter of "and, and": and book, and screen, and memory, and individual effort, and cooperation with others, and…, of course, reading. Let us remember that to educate the whole “tribe” is needed.

Let's bet on a systemic transformation of educational centers and discover the areas for improvement that lie ahead (and the love of reading is one of them) but, please, let's not remain in a loop in eternal dilemmas. Let's not play "the Swedes". By the way, where does this locution come from?

We have just opened the door of curiosity: come and read, and meanwhile, let's make the average go up.