Swedes take us to school on education

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I’ve been studying in Sweden for the past few months now and one big thing I’ve noticed is that Canada’s education system absolutely sucks in comparison.

The main issue with Canada’s education system is that they don’t want their students to succeed. We have all been in a class where the teacher has had to bell curve the average lower just because they have maintain a certain class average. If the class average is too high, the school makes them explain why. This is fundamentally wrong and does not address the root problem.

In Sweden, and the majority of Europe for that matter, the professors actually want you to do well. Student success is what they are all about. In fact, in some instances, you can retake your final exam as many times as you want until you get the grade you desire.

There are flaws in this system as well, but the student comes out with knowledge gained. One student here wrote his final 12 times! This is not necessarily a solution but does reflect a desire to have students learn, ultimately making the best use of their time at school.

In Sweden, there is infrequently any use of the “professor” or “doctor” formality that Canadian profs demand we use. Nor are there specific guidelines just for emailing a prof. I’ve had profs in Canada who refuse to answer emails if you don’t use the proper etiquette.

Sweden however, maintains a level of equality and respect with students whereby you call your prof by their first name and have a casual, more personal relationship with one another.

Unlike the profs in Canada, Swedish profs do not carry an attitude towards students that says, “I am better than you,” which is reflected through their means of communication.
Another thing that Europe’s education has going for it is that it is free to any and all citizens of Europe. They pay absolutely nothing to get a university degree. In fact, the European Union pays them a certain amount of money each month to even be in school! In Canada, we pay on average around $6,000-$10,000 a year just in tuition alone, not including rent or other living expenses. Europe makes education available to all its citizens whereas Canada justifies it as being only for the wealthy or those that want to sink deep into debt.

Making it easier to go to school means students are more likely to attend, as expressed by many students in university here. There is an overwhelming sense that university education is considered the norm.

Student debt in Canada is on the rise with no solution in sight. OSAP ever so generously gives students a six-month grace period before they start charging a ton of interest to what you already owe. In Europe, you can get a student loan from the government and in some cases, you don’t even have to pay it back. In Germany, for instance, loans are given out typically as half grant money and half a zero interest loan which only has to be paid back when a certain income is earned.

After my four years of university, the amount of OSAP I will have to payback will take me approximately 9.5 years according to OSAP’s website. That means that I will not be out of my debt until I’m 32.

It is said that Europe is more advanced than Canada and in the area of education the idea of free, quality education is a prime example. Europe sees education as a right for all individuals and encourages and helps them to succeed. In Canada, we tell people that if they cannot afford to pay for education then they are not entitled to have it. Canada offers government funding, but puts students into years of debt if they choose to take it.

I think Canada needs to rethink its values and education system dramatically. We value class division and entitlement over a fundamental right that all citizens deserve. Education shouldn’t be based on survival of the fittest, nor should a student’s success be impeded due to “required class averages.”

Canada’s education system values taking students monetarily for all they have whether they succeed or not. Sweden, on the other hand, actually values their students and prides themselves on catering to their educational rights.

Now, to be clear, our system compared to many in the world is of high quality. However, Canada needs to look towards other similar countries and assess how the Canadians system can improve before student debt and the cost of education weighs down the next generation of post-secondary students.

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