Choosing to Learn

STOCKHOLM – The Nordic countries’ economies are performing well, and a part of the reason is that they are gradually reforming their “social model,” adapting it to new realities in ways that respond to people’s demands. But there is nothing uniquely “Nordic” about this change. On the contrary, it is one that others can emulate.

Obviously, such a policy requires significant investment in research and development. Sweden, for example, invests more than any other European country in this area – well above the EU target of 3% of GDP. Many countries invest less, and even Sweden’s 4% of GDP might not be enough, given higher spending on R&D in China, India, and the United States.

Moreover, large investments in R&D may be of limited use if knowledge can’t be transformed into successful businesses. That requires adopting policies that cover everything from kindergarten training to collaboration between universities and companies, as well as an overall business climate in which success is rewarded and failure is not treated as a human catastrophe. America’s success is to a great extent based on this kind of thinking.

Unfortunately, most European educational systems are based on outdated practices and theories. Although educational possibilities and structures have gradually been diversified, the major shortcoming of most European educational systems remains: students have too few choices, and teachers, if they want to remain in their profession, must adhere to a severely compartmentalized pedagogy.