New report: School achievement and health development in the Nordic countries
14 Apr 2021
Education plays a particularly important role in explaining health outcomes in the Nordic countries. Our new report aims to highlight knowledge gaps and describe the need for research to better understand the connections between education, health, and equality.
The report School achievement and health development in the Nordic countries – Knowledge gaps and concerns about school-age children discusses a series of concerns regarding methodology, theoretical perspective, policy aspects, and ethical and political aspects.
Gender differences in school achievement
Gender differences in school achievement is one of the main themes in the report. A trend in the Nordic countries is that men, as a group, fall behind when it comes to educational achievement and health outcomes. The Norwegian report Nye sjanser – bedre læring Kjønnsforskjeller i skoleprestasjoner og utdanningsløp shows that there are significant gender differences in educational achievement. At the end of elementary school, Norwegian girls have better grades than boys in all subjects except sports. There are also significant differences in the adult population when it comes to higher education. A similar pattern can be found in all the Nordic countries.
According to the Nordic Welfare Center’s report educational practice should be researched to uncover the mechanism behind gender-based and socio-economic inequalities in school achievement. This would include longitudinal studies over many years.
The report states that school is a working environment for the children, teachers, and other school staff. Therefore, it would be important to close the knowledge gap on breaks, physical activity, and length of lessons in relation to school achievement and health development among school-age girls and boys.
The Nordic education model faces challenges
The education systems of the five Nordic countries still display a number of common inclusive distinguishing qualities, enabled by continued extensive public funding of education. The Nordic countries are almost the only OECD countries that do not have higher education tuition fees. Nordic school children have access to free healthcare, special education for those who need it, career counselling, and school transport.
Researchers argue that it is still relevant to speak of a Nordic education model that emphasises social justice and equality. However, decentralisation from the state to the local level and various neoliberal policy measures have been applied in all of the Nordic countries (albeit to varying degrees and in different forms), and these changes have undoubtedly undermined the foundations of the Nordic model, according to the report.
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