When it comes to school-age educare, there is a need for a greater number of qualified teachers and more research. Linköping University (LiU) is now taking the lead in boosting the profession through an annual investment of SEK 2.2 million per year over four years, which will go to research into school-age educare.
School-age educare is a large part the Swedish education system. Just over 90 percent of all students aged six to nine participate in learning in school-age educare centres. But there is a shortage of primary school teachers with the right special training for school-age educare. Furthermore, educational sciences research on school-age educare is very limited. At Linköping University (LiU), where the school-age educare specialisation for primary school teachers has in recent years been expanded, a new research investment is being made in school-age educare. This is a unique decision in Sweden, and gives LiU the opportunity to position itself as leading in the area.
“School-age educare is an under-researched educational form which has not been focussed on. This is something we’ve struggled with on our teacher training programme, so we’re extremely pleased and proud of having received this funding”, says Helene Elvstrand, associate professor at the Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning (IBL) at LiU.
School-age educare has been highlighted in the educational plan for Swedish primary education . In the plan, school-age educare is emphasised as an important part of lifelong learning. It is also an arena in which to deal with social challenges related to diversity and segregation.
“Research on school-age educare is important from several perspectives”, says Helene Elvstrand:
“From a LiU perspective, it’s important that our undergraduate education is grounded in research, so that the education we deliver is of high scientific quality. Furthermore, as a researcher of school-age educare, I think it’s important from the pupils’ perspective, so that their place of education is researched, and so that those who work in school-age educare can be supported by research."
The decision means that LiU will contribute a special annual research fund of 2.2 million kronor for the years 2022–2026. The new investment involves redirecting vice-chancellor funds which were previously used for recruiting guest professors for the Moa Martinson and Tage Danielsson professorships.
“We see a great opportunity for Linköping University to help build up a strong future research field”, says Jan-Ingvar Jönsson, vice-chancellor at LiU. “School-age educare has been named nationally as a research area that ought to be strengthened in Sweden. And the higher education institution which is best placed to do that is Linköping University. So this is a fantastic, important investment.”
Recruiting PhD students
Helene Elvstrand says that they hope to build a large, national research base, and to recruit several PhD students.
“The new initiative is based at IBL, but we will collaborate with several contributing departments, such as Tema Barn, making this a big project. This also allows us to work with questions related to school-age educare in an interdisciplinary fashion, which is something of a LiU trademark.”
Important symbolic value
“The decision that LiU has taken has also an important symbolic value”, says Helene Elvstrand:
“I have both worked and researched on the primary school teacher programme, and have spent the past ten years trying to establish research networks, both nationally and internationally. It’s very important, in the educational sphere, that school-age educare centres have this position.”
LiU has taken several decisions in recent years to meet the need for primary teachers specialised in school-age educare. For example, the number of places on the programme have grown from 35 when the programme started in 2011, to just over 200 today. What’s more, LiU is starting a programme of further education for primary school teachers and other kinds of teachers who do not have the right degree (VAL). Research on school-age educare at LiU is already being done on a small scale, but the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) has found that this research at LiU is of high quality compared to similar research at other higher education institutions.