In autumn 2001 a new teaching qualification was introduced in Sweden. The new degree is an integrated qualification that supersedes eight of the previous 11 teaching qualifications. The new structure, with a single comprehensive study programme for several categories of teachers, makes it difficult to see how the students envisage their future careers. To find out what types of teaching, and in what subjects, students plan to do after graduation, the National Agency for Higher Education sent a questionnaire to 7,000 students who embarked on the new teacher-training programme in the autumn terms of 2001 and 2002. The response rate was 80%.
Students’ choice of teaching categoryThe early years of compulsory (nine-year comprehensive) school are a popular future area of work among prospective teachers. Thirty-eight per cent of the students express the wish to work in compulsory school. A further 12% say they want to work in pre-school or a pre-school class (1 see note) , and 16% state their wish to work in the later years of compulsory school. Twenty-five per cent intend to teach in upper-secondary or adult education. ‘Don’t knows’ make up 4%. Of those who have decided on their basic career focus, 95% are very or fairly sure of their choice.
Comparing these figures with the distribution of students attending the previous teacher-training programme, we see that the proportion opting for the early years of compulsory school has increased. The share of students who specialise in teaching at pre-school, in pre-school classes and at after-school centres has, on the other hand, declined. Regarding teachers in these latter activities, this is where the gap is widest between the National Agency for Education’s needs forecasts and the expected number of teachers in various categories, according to the students’ questionnaire responses.
According to the forecasts, three times as many teachers should be employed in pre-school and pre-school classes, and twice as many in after-school centres, as indicated by the survey results. However, it is important to remember that many students who wish to teach in the early years of compulsory school also become qualified to teach in pre-school and pre-school classes.
In terms of sex composition, there are major differences in students’ career choices. While many women want to teach younger children, the men mainly want to work in the upper classes of compulsory school and in upper-secondary and adult education. In all branches of education, however, the women outnumber the men. Among the students who wish to work in pre-school and pre-school classes, only 4% are men.
Of the students who have made their career choices, 80% still have the same basic intention regarding where they want to work as they had when they embarked on their studies. On the other hand, 16% of these have changed their occupational focus. Most of those doing so have opted for an activity that is closely related, in terms of the pupils’ or students’ age. Many state that they have changed their occupational focus in order to obtain greater personal job satisfaction. Two other factors with a bearing on their choice are, first, increased scope for teaching particular subjects and, second, general working conditions.
Students’ choice of teaching subjectAmong the students who state that they want to work among older pupils in compulsory school, in upper-secondary school and in adult education, almost all the respondents have decided which subjects they wish to teach. Roughly 50% of the students want to teach social-science subjects. Some 30% want to teach Swedish or Swedish as a second language. Among the students who are aiming to teach older lower-secondary pupils, around 25% want to teach mathematics or natural-science subjects. The corresponding proportion among students wanting to work in upper-secondary and adult education is 14%. The Government’s target is that a third should focus on mathematics, natural sciences or technology. Few students wish to teach modern languages other than English.
1. Translator’s note. The Swedish ‘pre-school class’ is a special form of education that the municipalities are now obliged to provide. It comprises activities (for three hours daily, according to the same curriculum as compulsory school and on the same premises) for six-year-olds. Children’s attendance is voluntary, but almost universal, i.e. nearly all six-year-olds in Sweden attend unless they (normally in the year of their seventh birthday) already attend compulsory school.