Swedish Government Report Critiques Daycare Conditions: Articles and Research by Kids First—Volume 1 (broken link)

(July 15, 2005) Swedish Government Report Critiques Daycare Conditions

By Helen Ward, President, Kids First Parent Association of Canada ©

Canadian daycare advocates hold Swedish daycare to be a model for Canada. The pro-corporate Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (www.oecd.org), which Canada belongs to, “holds up the Swedish pre-school as a model….providing great respect for the child” (p. 35). We are told Swedish daycare is a Valhalla for children, where highly trained loving staff provides universal high quality care to all. But does Canada want to follow Sweden?

A recent Swedish government report makes it clear that Swedish daycare is not the Nirvana we are told it is. The daycare lobby has avoided telling us any details about the low quality conditions now in Swedish daycare. As the report says, the situation is “a development that was hardly intended” (p. 19). This “unintended development” is clearly the inadequate care being given to children and the potential long term harm to society. Kids are definitely not first.

The Child Care Resource and Research Unit (www.childcarecanada.org)—a major daycare lobbyist outfit funded by our money through Hon. Ken Dryden’s Social Development Ministry (formerly HRDC)—has posted the report on Swedish daycare done by the Swedish government. It sounds an alarm about the conditions in what they call “pre-school”.

Problems reported in Pre-School in Transition: A national evaluation of the Swedish pre-school2004 (url link at end of this Blog)

  1. Staff:child ratios have increased to unacceptable levels

    • “the average group size for younger children (1-3 years old) is 14.6, for groups with older children (3-5 years old) 19.7 and for mixed age groups 18.4….group size for younger children may vary between 10-22 children and in groups of older children between 15-25.” (p. 20)

    • “group sizes in the pre-school increased substantially during the ’90s” (p. 21) [note: Canadian ratios are increasing—see related Blog]

    • “[it] may well be that the preconditions for providing good overall quality have deteriorated, especially as a result of large groups of children and fewer staff” (p. 26)

    • “the size of the group not only has pedagogical consequences, but is also of importance for the working environment of the staff” (p. 21-22)

    • “it is mainly financial constraints which steer decisions on group size” (p. 21)

    • “sometimes it is apparent that the premises are not appropriate to the current group sizes” (p. 22)

  2. Lack of qualified staff
    • “there are great differences…concerning their ability to recruit qualified staff….the situation is most difficult in sparsely populated areas and low resource areas in large cities” (p. 22)

  3. Low-income children (in “low resource areas”) get the worst care
    • “pre-schools in high resource areas enjoy better class conditions…than pre-schools in low resource areas”

  4. Primary Reponsibility for children is an issue
    • “a recurring theme in the interviews [with staff and heads of daycares]…was that the parents have the main responsibility for their children and that staff are not to usurp this reponsibility” (p. 27)

    • “frustration was expressed to the effect that the pre-school has to take excessive responsibility and that staff and parents have different norms for the upbringing of children” (p. 27)

  5. The direction towards school-style learning is harmful

    • “different meanings are attributed to the concept of learning” (p. 39)

    • “pre-school’s incorporation into the education system has created, from a professional perspective, ‘benefits’ in that the pre-school gains higher status and increased legitimacy….[However] Based on a child’s perspective, the benefits may be more uncertain” (p.40)

    • “In a compilation of international research, experiences from different countries with different forms of pre-schooling and different ages for starting school are compared. Amongst other things, it appears that formal learning at an early stage—where there is little scope for the child to explore and use his/ her own initiative—may have a negative effect on the child’s self-esteem and motivation to learn and negatively impact the child’s own learning over a longer time perspective.

    • ” the National Agency for Education considers that excessive emphasis placed on formal learning at an early stage can have negative consequences.

    • “It is thus important to have a more meaningful dialogue … concerning what the terms “development” and “learning” mean for children between the ages of 1-5 in the pre-school.“(p40)


Pre-School in Transition: A national evaluation of the Swedish pre-school, 2004 (broken link)

Helen Ward ©

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