Filippa Mannerheim is a Swedish high school teacher and a critic of Sweden’s experiment in school privatization.

She writes.

Dear Sweden, let me tell you what a school is.

A school educates and dares and can demand effort. Sweden has forgotten what a school is. High school teacher Filippa Mannerheim gives a lesson to a country that has lost its grip.

Dear Sweden, since you seem to have completely lost your composure, here is a short, educational guide to help you along in your confused state.

Sweden, let me tell you what school is: A school is an academic place for knowledge and learning. A school is the nation’s most important educational institution with the aim of equipping the country’s young citizens with knowledge and abilities, so that they can develop into free and independent individuals, protect the country’s democratic foundations and with knowledge and skills contribute to the country’s continued prosperity – in times of peace as well as in troubled times .

A school is not a joint-stock company with profit as the main incentive. A school is a joint community building. A school has educated, subject-knowledgeable, qualified teachers with high status, good working conditions and great professional freedom. These teachers teach the country’s children in the country’s language.

A school has employed – not hired – resource staff: special teachers, school nurse, study and vocational guidance counselors, IT staff, janitors. A school does not have non-qualified persons behind the chair.

A school gives children who are falling behind extra support from trained special teachers. A school does not hand out digital tools or ineffective adaptations as substandard substitutes for extra support, just because it is cheaper.

A school has appropriate premises: adequately sized classrooms, an auditorium, a sports hall, a music hall, a home economics room with a kitchenette, crafts and lab rooms. A school has adequate equipment for theoretical and practical teaching, such as musical instruments, craft tools, laboratory equipment, teaching aids, working IT equipment and large amounts of fiction in class sets.

A school has a school library with trained librarians who keep an eye on the world, buy books, hold book talks and contribute with unique expertise in fiction and non-fiction, information search and source criticism. A school does not have a repository of some randomly selected books donated by parents and call this a “school library”. A school library is not “access to a public library”.

A school has a large school yard where children can jump rope, jump fence, play football, play marbles, play ghost ball, King and run around. A school yard is not a paved patch outside an apartment building.

A school is an architectural building – a proud landmark – adapted to a unique activity, namely teaching the country’s children. A school is not a bicycle cellar or an industrial premises where students get “theoretical skills” or a gym card at Sats, which is called “sports education” because it is cheaper.

A school is not a private playground for calculating corporate groups and corrupt ex-politicians who want to make a career in business. If you think so, you have seriously misunderstood what school is.

A school sells nothing because knowledge cannot be sold or bought. A school has a canteen that serves a well-planned lunch based on the Swedish Food Agency’s guidelines for a good and nutritious meal. A school does not send teenagers out to buy their daily lunch at a hamburger chain using a food stamp.

A school does not compete with other schools for school fees or easily taught students. A school has no incentive to set satisfaction ratings, as rating is a pressure-free exercise of authority – not a means of competition and a way to fish for new school customers.

A school educates and dares and can demand effort. A school is a community foundation, not a sandwich board for demanding parental customers. A school has an obvious consensus on what knowledge is and how it is taught using methods that rest on a scientific basis.

A school has teachers who conduct well-planned teaching, not teachers who send students home with work that parents are expected to help with in order for the school’s profit to be greater. A school has teachers who see themselves as academics and public servants, not marketers and influencers who hawk vacuum cleaners with the help of their students via Instagram accounts.

A school is an area where politicians strive for cooperation, long-termism, stability and the best interests of the citizens. A school is not allowed to become a bat in national political debates about cap issues or grades from year 4. The word “school” and “lobbyism” are never used in the same sense. A school system without a market is not a “communist government”.

We live in a country that has lost all understanding of what school is. We live in a country where the politicians have let go of the country’s own school system and are selling it off, piece by piece, to international companies.

We live in a country where students and parents get an image that school can be anything, however, anywhere and an image of themselves as school customers instead of parents and students. This is dangerous for the individual but even more dangerous for the nation at large.

Sweden, now you know what school is. What do you do with that knowledge?

By Filippa Mannerheim

Filippa Mannerheim is a high school teacher in Swedish and history, as well as a school debater. She attracted a lot of attention in the winter of 2020 with her open letter to Sweden’s Riksdag politicians on Expressen’s culture page, “Swedish school is a shame – you politicians have failed”.