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The Swedish Minister of Education had expressed great joy, like the Prime Minister, over the PISA results in 2018. It has not only turned out that these results have been seriously misleading, but also that information on the faked numbers had circulated in Government Offices. Photo: Private

Nothing is being done about Sweden’s PISA fraud

In the large international school survey PISA in 2018, Sweden excluded a large number of foreign-born students to improve the country's school results. In a report, the National Audit Office has strongly criticized the fact that neither the government nor the National Agency for Education has investigated the cheating since it was revealed.

Published: May 16, 2021, 7:59 am

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    On May 6, Minister of Education Anna Ekström was questioned in the Education Committee about the cheating, but she gave very unsatisfactory answers.

    The PISA survey is an international study examining 15-year-olds’ knowledge of reading comprehension, science and mathematics, developed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). When the results for the 2018 survey were presented, Minister of Education Anna Ekström spoke about “a day of joy” and a success for Swedish schools. Stefan Löfven spoke of “a fantastic result”.

    Eventually, however, it emerged that too many students in Sweden had been exempted from taking the test, which gave a wrong picture of school results. As many as 11 percent were missing, a group of students who probably would have negatively impacted Sweden’s average, as they were relatively newly arrived migrants.

    Swedish weekly Nya Tider had suspected manipulation of the results, six months before the mainstream media reacted. Only when it was no longer possible to ignore the news did Expressen write an article on June 2, 2020, claiming to “expose” the PISA cheating.

    The Swedish National Agency for Education and the government explained the large number of excluded students with the huge wave of migrants in 2015, when 163 000 people applied for asylum in Sweden, which also led to a particularly large number of newly arrived students. In many cases they were exempted, for example if they had had less than a year of Swedish schooling.

    However, the National Audit Office’s review has shown that the vast majority of the younger people who came in 2015 had gone to Swedish schools for too long to be exempted. The OECD approved the Swedish framework, and accepted the explanation that the large number of exempted students was due to the migration wave in 2015. However, the National Audit Office can state that these conclusions are based on incorrect assumptions about the Swedish school system’s teaching of newly arrived students.

    That the National Agency for Education’s explanations for the large number of exceptions are not credible has been pointed out in internal documents, but the Government and the National Agency for Education have stuck to their explanation and have referred to the OECD report.

    The reactions from the political opposition have been strong, not least from the Sweden Democrats. On his Facebook page, Jimmie Åkesson laconically stated on April 29 that “Minister of Education Anna Ekström should actually resign”. He said: “Cheating is cheating. Ugly cheating is ugly cheating. Systematic and deliberate cheating, in order to conceal failures linked to mass migration for which one is responsible, is unforgivable cheating. Lying to the electorate is not worthy of a minister.”

    Anna Ekström herself told Expressen on the same day: “It is a question for the Riksdag, and I have no plans to resign. During the time since the PISA survey was presented, I had done what I knew and really ensured that the investigation was produced in a correct manner.”

    On May 6, she was questioned by the Riksdag’s education committee, but according to the opposition gave very unsatisfactory answers. Kristina Axén Olin, the Moderates’ education policy spokesperson, told SVT after the meeting: “On several occasions, Ekström denied an excessive exclusion despite the fact that she knew from memo’s in her own ministry which showed the opposite.”

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