According to ICT for Everyone – A Digital Agenda (2011) from the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications, and the European Agency’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Inclusion Report (2013), Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the “teaching tools needed by schools to achieve their aims”.
The 2010 Swedish Education Act (2010) defines distance learning as “interactive teaching that is conducted with information and communication technology where students and teachers are separated in both space and time” and distance education as “interactive education conducted with information and communication technology where students and teachers are separated in space but not in time”.
Constitution and laws: The 1974 Constitution stipulates that “The personal, economic and cultural welfare of the private person shall be fundamental aims of public activity. In particular, it shall be incumbent upon the public institutions to secure the right to education, and to promote social care and social security.” (Art. 2), “All children covered by compulsory schooling shall be entitled to a free basic education at a public school. The public institutions shall also be responsible for the provision of higher education.” (Art. 21) and “A foreign national within the Realm is equated with a Swedish citizen in respect of the right to an education.” (Art. 21). However, the Constitution does not refer to the integration of technology in education.
The revised curriculum suggests including digital tools and digitalization concepts in different subjects, throughout all year.
The Swedish government issued an Act on Electronic Communications in 2022. This law aims partly to ensure that individuals and authorities have access to safe and efficient electronic communications, and partly to ensure the greatest possible exchange for all electronic communication services in terms of the selection as well as their price, quality, and capacity. This act does not specifically refer to education.
Policies, plans and strategies: In 2011, the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications realized a digital agenda for Sweden called ICT for Everyone. This document outlined a new objective for ICT policy and to promote access to ICT for all individuals. Also, this agenda is aimed at improving digital literacy skills, particularly among students and young people.
In 2016, the Swedish National Agency for Education presented proposals for changes in curricula, course plans, subject plans, and degree objectives according to the assignment on proposals for National IT Strategies for the School System.
In 2017, the Swedish Ministry of Education and Research, in collaboration with leaders from the academic and school sectors, implemented the National Digitalization Strategy for the School System as a key component of the National Digitalization Strategy.
From 2023, the Swedish National Agency for Education participate in activities for the International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS), an international study on the digital competence of students in year 8
Additionally, to realize the national digitalisation strategy for the years 2017–2022, Sweden's Municipalities and County Councils published #skolDigiplan, in 2019. This is an action plan with proposals for 18 initiatives and activities of national nature to use digitisation as a means to create better conditions for preschool, school, and adult education activities. The foundation of #skolDigiplan is a year-long partnership between Sweden's Municipalities and County Councils (SKR) and the Swedish National Agency for Education, the school system and business community. A combined assessment of the existing situation and a description of the issue has been reached by SKR and the Swedish National Agency for Education.
Digital competency frameworks: The European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens, also referred to as DigComp, provides a tool to enhance citizens' digital competence while supporting relevant national frameworks, policies and digital skills strategies since 2010. Sweden, being a member of the European Union, is participating in this framework.
The European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators: DigCompEdu is a policy report published in 2017. This aims to aid the development of educators’ digital competence in Europe and to execute digital tools and training programs for the member countries, including Sweden.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish government introduced several changes to the regulations for the school system; a revised Ordinance (2020) was adopted on March 3 of 2022. The ordinances included remote learning, social distancing, increased hygiene measures, changes to the grading and assessment, and modification of school schedules.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: The Swedish Environmental Code (Miljöbalken, 2020) contains several provisions which could be related to schools and other public buildings. However, it does not directly refer to education.
The Swedish Electrical Safety Act (2016) sets out the basic rules and requirements for electrical safety in Sweden, including those that apply to schools. It requires that all electrical installations and equipment in schools meet certain safety standards.
Based on this act, in Sweden’s National Electrical Safety Board's regulations on electrical installation companies and on the execution of electrical installation work (ELSÄK-FS 2017:3), the second section specifies the types of electrical installation work to which an electrical installation company may choose to limit its operations. Electrical (sub)installation work in low-voltage is divided into various activity types, including schools.
Computers and devices: In 2019 #skolDigiplan, it is mentioned that among other things, the schools have to aim to purchase new or upgrade their existing computers and tablets so that they can handle web browsers that support modern web standards. Furthermore, most principals state that students with functional impairments have access to compensatory or alternative digital tools. However, it also appears that there are only a few companies that offer technical support on the same day in case a problem arises, but this kind of support is often provided by the school owners ie. municipalities or independent schools.
The following features are part of the Education Act (SFS 2010:800), which went into effect on August 1, 2010: Textbooks, instructional aids, and equipment were replaced by "learning tools,”. The "access to books and other learning tools required for a modern education" for students is to be provided without charge. The rapid advancements in information technology, which have considerably altered how education is carried out and the tools students use, were a contributing factor to the change. The definition of "learning tools" was given as "equipment and material, other than books, that students need to accomplish their educational objectives." These learning resources may also include alternative learning resources like speech synthesis.
According to one of Sweden’s initiatives, Digitalization in Schools program (2018), more and more schools and principals also choose to provide students with a personal digital tool. The so-called 1:1 investment means that students in a certain student group, class, grade or school get access to their own computer or tablet.
One-to-One Computing is common in the country. It provides students with laptop computers or tablets and Internet access in schools and can often be used at home. There is no national initiative on one-to-one computing, although it has been a trend which started around 2006 and now covers upper secondary schools and the later years in compulsary schools, sometimes earlier.
Internet connectivity: Sweden’s National broadband plan adopted in 2016, aims to ensure that all households and businesses in Sweden have access to high-speed internet by 2025.
In 2021, the Swedish National Agency for Education planned continued work to facilitate administration within the school system. Since 2017, the Agency has the responsibility to digitize the national tests, which among other things makes requirements for a stable internet connection mandatory. The national tests are mandatory for schools in grade 3, 6. 9 and in the upper secondary level and are important for calibrating the grades.
E-infrastructure within the higher education sector: The e-infrastructure within the higher education sector proved to work very well during the COVID-19 pandemic. The higher education sector is generally far ahead when it comes to digitalization within, for example, the application process, management of digital identities and widespread use of digital support services. SUNET, which is the Swedish higher education sector's national supplier of e-infrastructure, helped ensure that the sudden digital transition from mainly campus teaching to digital remote and distance learning worked beyond expectations.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
On March 12, 2020, the School at Home project (Skola Hemma) started by the Swedish National Agency for Education. It is a project that provides school operations with collective support to meet challenges when parts of the teaching are conducted as remote or distance learning via websites as response to the pandemic. The website is maintained by the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) in collaboration with the Swedish National Agency for Education, Swedish Edtech Industry, Sweden's Municipalities and County Councils, etc. On March 16, 2020, the first version of the website, skolahemma.se, was launched.
At the beginning of 2021, according to the Ordinance (2020:115), teaching at upper secondary schools continues to be conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, it became possible by ordinance for upper secondary schools, under certain conditions, to conduct certain teaching remotely, in combination with teaching at the school. Based on this ordinance, principals could also, under certain conditions, make changes to the teaching hours. At the end of May 2021, it became possible for the university and college students to return to on-site teaching from the beginning of June. However, to give schools better conditions for planning their activities in the long term, the government extended the regulation's period of validity to 31 July 2022. Afterwards, at the beginning of March, the government announced that schools' possibility to conduct distance learning would be removed at the beginning of April according to the adjusted ordinance.
Based on Ordinance (2020), certain student groups of students were considered to be vulnerable to distance learning and were exempted during the pandemic. The reason for the exception was that these students needed to be at school for practical sessions, special support, and examinations. It could also be because they needed it for physical, mental, or other reasons. They had the opportunity to receive certain teaching at school.
During 2020, the Swedish National Agency for Education communicated in various ways about the work to promote the digitalization of the school system. The COVID-19 pandemic affected communication efforts, and a major focus during the year was on developing and making available support material on remote and distance learning. The support material is available both as texts and podcasts on their website and has highlighted how teachers, principals and principals can benefit from digital tools in connection with the transition to remote and distance education. In addition to this, the Swedish National Agency for Education has continuously updated and highlighted information on existing skills development and information initiatives around digitalization.
Since the schoolyear 2022/23, all schools are back to normal and distance education is only allowed under certain conditions except for adult education where its used in order to give more adults access.
In 2018, the Swedish government revised the Curriculum for the compulsory school, preschool class and school-age educare to include digital competency, based on the Education Act (2010). In this curriculum, it is clarified that “The school should contribute to pupils developing an understanding of how digitalization is affecting the individual and the development of society.”, that “All pupils should be given the opportunity to develop their ability to use digital technology” and that “The educational program should thus provide pupils with conditions to develop digital competence and an attitude that promotes entrepreneurship.”
Also, it includes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects.
In Status and Trends of STEM education in Sweden, a paper written in 2022, the author demonstrates that STEM education in Sweden is mandatory and comprehensive for all students from the time they begin compulsory education at the age of 6 until they enter higher secondary school.
In the Higher Education Ordinance, Annex 2 (2014), a teacher-to-be must show digital competence, using digital aids confidently and critically in educational processes as well as considering the significant roles of different media and a digital environment in education.
Regarding the Initial teacher education in using ICT to promote inclusive learning, the Higher Education Ordinance degree description (SFS 1993:100), valid since 1 January 2011, entails the following:
Graduates of all four teacher degrees—preschool teacher, compulsory school teacher, subject teacher, and vocational studies teacher—should demonstrate through their "skills and capacities" "the ability to confidently and critically use digital tools in teaching and to be aware of the significance of the role of various media and digital environments in this area." And this replaced the previous phrase "show the ability to use information technology in teaching and comprehend the significance of the role of various media in this area”
The Boost for Teachers program (2007) provides support the professional development of teachers and opportunities for them to enhance their skills and knowledge in various subject areas, including for mathematics and reading skills. The courses and training programs are offered by universities and colleges across Sweden and many are available online, funded by the Swedish government.
2.4.1. Data privacy
In the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990), there are a number of provisions that may be particularly relevant regarding the rights of children and young people online. In this guide, the articles on children's freedom of expression and information (Article 13) and the right to privacy and family life (Article 16) and Article 17 on the role of the mass media are particularly relevant, as are Article 19 (physical or psychological violence) and Article 36 (protection against other exploitation).
The Swedish Data Act (SFS 1973:289), also known as the "1973 Data Act," came into effect in 1973, making Sweden the first nation to implement data protection laws. In general, this act ensures that personal data is processed in a way that respects individuals' privacy rights. However, it does not contain specific provisions for data privacy and education.
In 2016, the Swedish government published a national strategy for society's information and cyber security. It is a comprehensive plan that outlines the country's approach to protecting its information and communication technology (ICT) systems and digital infrastructure from cyber threats. While the national strategy for society's information and cybersecurity in Sweden does not specifically focus on education, it does recognize the importance of cybersecurity in the education sector.
Now, the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) (the "GDPR") which is mainly intended to regulate the processing of personal data by public bodies based on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 8) makes up the current Swedish data protection regime, as law in Sweden.
Additionally, the Act with supplementary provisions to the EU's data protection regulation (2018:218) replenishes the General Data Protection Regulation. This act particularly highlights children and it is said that children's personal data deserve special protection, because children may be less aware of the relevant risks, consequences and protective measures as well as of their rights when it comes to the processing of personal data.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The Swedish National Agency for Education suggests a guideline (Take Care of Yourself Online!) showing what students can do if someone is bullying them online or a guideline (Think about What You Post Online!) that students should consider before posting online.
Also, in 2020, Swedish Authority for Privacy Protection published a guide, “Children’s and young people's rights on digital platforms”. In this guide, it highlights that in the Swedish Marketing Act (SFS 2008:486), it is forbidden to send direct advertising to children under 16 years of age and to direct purchase invitations to minors. Also, it highlights that the Radio and Television Act (SFS 2010:696) contains provisions with restrictions on content with depictions of violence and pornographic images. Additionally, the guide underlines that Audiovisual Media Services Directive is implemented in Sweden primarily through the Radio and Television Act, with rules on television and pay-per-view television. The provisions concern, among other things, in content that incites hatred. And the directive has been adjusted, which requires changes to the broadcasting law that are essential for actors responsible for digital platforms. A new chapter on video-sharing platforms is introduced into the law.
The No Hate Speech Movement in Sweden was part of a wider European movement that has been active since 2013 and ended 2020. It was coordinated by the Swedish Media Council. The Agency worked to promote the campaign's message among students, teachers, and school staff, and provides resources and training to help schools and educational institutions address hate speech and discrimination.
Within its sector responsibility for promoting digitalization, the Swedish National Agency for Education works with six different areas: digital competence for children, students and teaching staff; digital competence for governance and management; digital teaching aids and learning resources; national and international follow-up infrastructure and standardization; and use of data and AI in teaching and learning.
The work in these areas should be gathering, supporting and driving and is carried out together with agencies and other organisations. Actions has been taken like recommendations on using specific Swedish standards within the school system for information exchange ie. SS1200. The National Agency has conducted follow-up studies on the use of ICT in schools every third year since 2008. Those studies where targeting the goals in the national strategy since 2017, the last one 2021. The area about data and AI in teaching and learning was initiated 2023.The national agency also provides steering documents like curriculum and other guiding documents together with support materials. This could be aimed at teacher professional development in general or more subject specific and includes how digitalization can be used in teaching and learning.
Also, to foster inclusivity, the National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (SPSM) strives to advance ICT use in education. The Agency has been in charge of the construction of Skoldatatek, a digital education activity since 2006. Skoldatatek’s extensive tasks include offering support for the activities of all the municipal schools in terms of ICT and reading and writing difficulties. Specifically, it is made to assist school employees and pupils to test digital equipment and to develop their ICT skills. Furthermore, it helps teachers to borrow these digital materials and receive technical assistance for their utilisation.
The school system in Sweden is very decentralized with a high degree of local decision making. The national strategy serves as a guidance but both financial and policy decisions are made either at the school owner or school level. Most school owners have a strategy for the digitalization often based on the national one. The move towards one-to-one is an example on how the digitalization has evolved based on local decision making.
This profile was drafted by Yeonghyeon Kim (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne). It was reviewed by Peter Karlberg, Director of Education at the Swedish National Agency for Education.