Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sweden, Day 12: Bollnäs, Bollnäs, & Kilafors

My head is full. And if Ewa hadn't poured for me a very helpful glass of wine, it would feel even fuller. My memory is already numbed a little but I do have 7 solid pages of notes to remind me of our meetings today. We met with Peter, Jonny & Jan & between the 3 of them received a very thorough overview of how the Swedish governmental system is arranged, especially as it relates to education.

Really, it is quite fascinating. Peter's presentation has gone a long way to reduce the confusion I had about how things work here. It seems that there are 4 main levels: the Kommun (municipality), the Län (county), the State (country) -- & now a 4th level created by participation in the European Union. There is a sort of 1.5 level, too: the informally defined cultural, historic regional identity inherited from times past. For Bollnäs & Söderhamn, this historical region is Hälsingland.

For the purposes of this blog, I won't go into the ways in which educational programming fits into all of this. It is really quite complicated & involves many different levels, distinctions, funding sources, organizational charts etc. But there were some points that especially caught my attention:
  • adult education is primarily funded at the level of the municipality. This means that teachers etc. are hired by the municipality & that educational programming must be directly responsive to municipal needs. People we've talked to see both the positive & negative aspects of this approach.
  • this Län has a very good reputation nationally for proficiency in distance education.
  • the EU funds all sorts of projects at both the national/regional level & at sectorial levels. It seems that Gävleborg region receives the usual sorts of education funding according to its geographical 'entitlement' but has not been so successful at obtaining sectorial funding. They are working on this. It means that they are especially open to considering projects & partnerships that transcend regional boundaries but they are not so accustomed to thinking in that way.
  • the research conducted on the efficacy of Swedish 'study centres' (centres like those we have seen in Söderhamn & Bollnäs that support distance learning for higher education in non-urban communities) is extremely convincing. They really do work. The study centres not only enable adults from non-academic families to complete higher education programs, they enable rural communities to retain these highly-educated individuals. What's not to like???
I could go on & on but like I said, I don't want to replicate the entire 7 pages of notes here.

The only other thing that really stands out for me is the incredible difference it makes when the government pays for higher education. The similarities between Hälsingland communities & Kootnenay communities are striking, but the differences between our communities' participation in adult education are equally striking. How much can we realistically hope to achieve in Canada when education is regarded as a luxury consumer item? Makes you wonder.

This evening we went to a lovely theatrical dinner presented by Ewa's son's school. The dinner was served at a beautiful restaurant in Kilafors (pronounced something like 'shillafosh'). The theatrical pieces were of course all in Swedish so I couldn't understand more than one word in every 20 or so but the exuberance of the young performers translates well regardless of language.

No comments: