Under Gustav Adolphus, the reformer, the state began to support secondary schools known as the gymnasia with schools established in the towns of Västerääs. Sträängnääs, and Linkööping. These offered classes in classical languages, religion, the sciences, mathematics, and geography, along with optional local course offerings. They were preparatory classes intended to prepare students for rigorous university classes. Instead of generalists, scholars were specialists called senior masters. The language of instruction was Latin. Students learned to read and showed their mastery of a subject by memorizing and reciting material.
In the late nineteenth century, secondary education was shaped to prepare students for the intellectual rigors of university life. As secondary schools improved in quality, the dependence on private tutors, who were engaged by families wanting the best education for their children, lessened.
Grades seven through nine are compulsory and refer to Sweden's system of lower secondary education. Swedish school authorities often lump primary and lower secondary education together, referring to the first nine years of school.
Upper Secondary Education: Upper secondary schools are not compulsory. Nonetheless, approximately 98 percent of all students voluntarily continue schooling in the three-year program after they turn sixteen. State law compels Swedish local municipalities to provide an opportunity for upper secondary education without charge.
As of 2000, students going on to upper secondary education may choose from a wide variety of vocational and college preparatory programs. Students may attend upper secondary school until turning twenty. At that age, they would be required to seek an education through adult upper secondary education.
In 1994, the curriculum for upper secondary school was reformed. The Education Act defines the school's basic role and program objectives. Each municipality chooses an education plan.
In Sweden, there are sixteen national programs, providing a general education or the groundwork of preparation for advanced study. All national programs possess important core subjects such as English, mathematics, natural sciences, civics, Swedish and religious education. About 95 percent of Sweden belongs to the Lutheran Church, and the figurehead monarch of Sweden must belong to the Lutheran Church or abdicate.
These subjects are divided into courses. Depending on complexity and difficulty, courses may earn a student 50, 100, 150 or 200 points toward graduation. Courses are graded, and graduates fall into three categories: those who pass, who pass with distinction, and who pass with special distinction. Graduates are awarded the leaving certificate and a transcript summarizing courses taken and grades earned.
In addition to the above, upper secondary school is open to those with learning or physical disabilities that need additional time and teacher aid to complete all subjects in the curriculum successfully. Having fewer programs (such as college entrance subjects) than the aforementioned upper secondary school, the secondary schools for students with disabilities tend to offer programs more vocational in setup.
Pupils no longer are ranked against one another under the reformed system, but rather are measured in how well they fulfill goals for the course and obtain mastery of the subject. The National Agency for Education determines the standards to decide grades of fail, pass and pass with distinction for national courses. For local courses, the education board establishes fail, pass and pass distinctions with guidelines for each. Students may repeat failed courses once and, with special permission, twice. The grade goes on the final leaving certificate.
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