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The cult of efficiency does not allow time for seeing the needs of individual pupils


“The quest for time efficiency makes it impossible for everyone to keep up, and we can't have that at our schools,” says Silvia Edling, professor of curriculum studies at University of Gävle.

According to the Swedish National Agency for Education, the task of the school system is to allow all individual students to find their unique character. This is a must to be able to participate in society in a way that is beneficial both to the individual and to society. Now, Silvia Edling believes that there is an overconfidence in the possibilities of streamlining and rationalising our schools.

Silvia Edling

Silvia Edling

“The general understanding is that if we just press the right buttons, we'll reach our goals faster, while saving time and money. Everything should be done quickly, and speed has gained an intrinsic value.”

We are different whether we like it or not

While this view is reinforced, many studies show that it is not that simple at all; we are radically different from each other, with different abilities, whether we like it or not.

“This difference has to be recognised and there is in fact an awareness in the world of education world that learning and knowledge tend to take time. However, this awareness falls by the wayside when the cult of efficiency is reinforced. But what learning does such a situation allow and what is being cut?”

Society demands so much more today

To deal with the complexity of our society, pupils need to be capable of deep understanding and critical thinking. Deep learning is about being able to apply knowledge in different contexts and to understand connections.

“It can never be done quickly. To enable everyone to reach appropriate goals, teachers need to slow down and make time for seeing and considering different individuals’ capacities.

Silvia explains that some teachers go out into the corridor to talk to the students, giving up their own time to keep up. Other teachers group pupils who need considerably more time and support.

“As a teacher, you need to be aware of the necessity to interpret the pupils’ different needs in each class, instead of using a general method for all, even though that general approach may be considered effective.”

“If we allow the cult of efficiency to determine the learning process, we risk ending up with a number of unequipped pupils. We need to stop and think and to take actions that we initially perceive as a waste of time. We can do better than today,” Silvia Edling says.

Scientific article


Silvia Edling, professor in curriculum studies at University of Gävle
Phone: 026-64 82 60
E-mail: silvia.edling@hig.se
Research presentation Silvia Edling
More about the strategic research area Innovative Learning at the University of Gävle

Text: Douglas Öhrbom
Foto Silvia Edling: Marie Hägg Zetterlund

Published by: Douglas Öhrbom Page responsible: Anders Munck Updated: 2021-11-08
Högskolan i Gävle
Box 801 76 GÄVLE
026-64 85 00 (växel)