Prof: Swedish education more laid back

By PATRICK CARROLL/Montana State News

Swedish schools offer a more relaxed early educational experience and a more collaborative approach to higher education than schools in the United States, according to Montana State University engineering professor Durward Sobek.

After returning from his yearlong leave of absence in Sweden, Sobek gave a presentation on campus Monday discussing his experiences with the Swedish school system.

According to Sobek, he and his family lived in an apartment in Gӧteborg, Sweden while he served as a guest professor at Chalmers University of Technology during fall semester 2011 and spring semester 2012. While he worked, his four children went to school.

“We lived only a few blocks away from the school, so it was very convenient. My kids were mostly pretty eager and they integrated into the system quite nicely,” Sobek said.

According to Sobek, his children found school in Sweden easier because of relaxed teaching methods.

“In Sweden, homework is not as important as it is here in the States,” he said. “You aren’t penalized if you don’t turn in homework, and the teachers simply think that maybe it’s not for you if you don’t.”

The children had to readjust to teaching methods in Bozeman when his family returned to the United States, Sobek said.

“My kids were really stressed out because they had homework every day, and I told them, ‘Well, yeah. That’s the American way,’” he said.

Differences also exist between universities in the United States and Sweden. Collaboration is less of a priority at MSU than it is at Chalmers University, according to Sobek.

According to the MSU mission statement, “Every student participates in a research or creative experience from one of four areas: the arts, humanities, natural science and social sciences.” The Website says nothing about collaboration between departments.

According to Sobek, the 17 departments at Chalmers University collaborate with one another to do research toward sustainability, which professors at the university believe serves as the driving force of modern innovation. Sobek said he got to observe Swedish collaboration methods first hand as he taught a graduate class consisting mainly of industrial students.

According to an article from its website, Chalmers University has recently been looking for ways to lower electricity consumption in computers, phones and other electronics through collaborative efforts.

“It is high time we found new methods of building computers,” wrote Per Stenstrӧm, a professor of computer architecture at Chalmers University.

-Edited by Nathan Voeller

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