It is not possible to over-invest in education.“

(former Swedish prime minister Göran Persson, 2002)

The most impressing aspect of this mobility in Stockholm for me was the unique Swedish system of lifelong learning. As well as children adults have the right of education. The Swedish system allows everone at everytime to return to the educational system. For example a 23-year-old woman, who dropped out from school as a youngster, has the chance to return to compulsory school, continue with secondary school and study at university afterwards. This second-chance education is for free. Compulsory school is from 7 to 16 years, afterwards students decide for higher education, vocational training or working. Schoolbooks, meals and transport are for free. School in Sweden is full-time and the compulsory school is not differentiated in lower, middle and higher classes.

The central elements of the lifelong learning in Sweden are:

  • CSN

  • career and guidance counselors

  • the unique adult education system

CSN stands for Centrala studiestödsnämnden, which means central study finance agency. If people decide to study, they can get financial support from CSN. The monthly amount depends on their age, the number of children and their educational background. The less educated one is, the more money he/she can get. The money has partly to be paid back over years, it should be done before retirement. Nearly everyone, who studies, receives CSN. It makes possible, that everyone can study, independet from the income of his/her parents. Till the age of 56 it is possible to be supported by CSN. Older than 56 one can still start to study, but has to finance it by him- oder herself. It is unique, that “the Swedish government is paying adults for getting education” as Jeannette Lehninger says, assisant headmaster of Vuxenutbildning Söderort (Adult Education Söderort).

Career and guidance counselors in Sweden work for example in schools, at adult education centres and in the jobtorg (job square). They work with pupils from the age of seven as well as with adults. To make a decision regarding your job-related future you need to know all possibilities. Therefore the career and guidance councelors advise people in their process of decision making.

For adults it is possible to study again if there are no more job opprotunities for the profession they have learned or after illness and rehabilitation. Furthermore it is possible to study again if a person is discontent with his / her profession. Also immigrants, who come to Sweden as adults and have a low educational background, can fist learn Swedish and then study. The requirement for immigrants is, that they have a permanent residence permit.

In the municipality of Stockholm there are 80.000 students per year. Lifelong learning can be either higher education at university or vocational training. Via CSN it is even possible to finance courses at Folkhögskola (adult evening classes) for self-empowerment like singing, yoga, photography.

A critical aspect of the Swedish system is, that there are so many opportunities, that young people get stressed and feel overstrained. There is quite a big number of youngsters with mental illness.

29th June 2018

Stefanie Büsching