The Shift Away from Digital Textbooks in Swedish Schools

The Experiment of Digital Education in Sweden. With technological advancements in Swedish schools, there has been an uncritical embrace of the digitization of the teaching process. However, despite the widespread availability of tablets and computers, it turns out that physical textbooks have irreplaceable advantages that modern technology does not offer. In response to this, the Swedish government, at the request of the Minister of Education, has decided to return to traditional paper textbooks.

The Move Away from Digital Learning

Digitalization in Swedish schools was largely an experiment. The initial approach to it was positive, without considering the fact that children would have access to many harmful contents. Although the European Parliament’s Culture Committee has called for more video games to be used in schools, Sweden wants to move in a different direction and has started investing in supplying schools with paper textbooks.

The Benefits of Digital Textbooks (And Why They're Not Enough)

Digital textbooks, if used properly, support the learning process in the youngest students. They can combine sound, images, text, and be updated in real time. Such a textbook cannot be lost or damaged. However, digitalization in schools has led to physical textbooks being overlooked too often. A physical book has so many benefits for development that no modern tablet can replace them.

The Advantages of Physical Textbooks

  • Easier navigation
  • Better understanding of content
  • Greater student engagement
  • Reduced distractions

The Science Behind Printed Textbooks

According to scientific studies presented by the National Education Agency, there are many benefits associated with printed texts. Individuals who read printed text better remember key points, recall more passages, and generally demonstrate a better understanding of content. Conversely, during digital reading, the reader spends less time reading—processing text faster but at the expense of understanding what they have just read.

The Cost of Missing Textbooks

According to a report from the Association of Educational Materials Creators, every third teacher claims they cannot purchase the necessary textbooks for their classes. This results in teachers spending valuable time printing educational materials—time that could be spent preparing, conducting, and checking lessons.

Sweden Invests in a Traditional Future

To make this a reality, the Swedish government has decided to allocate 685 million crowns for textbooks and half a billion crowns annually in the coming years. This will enable a greater number of schools to purchase high-quality textbooks.

The Negative Effects of Excessive Digitalization

The future of Sweden is shaped by the daily lives of its youngest citizens. The government wants it to be filled with reading and knowledge—not time spent in front of a screen. No wonder, considering the negative effects of digitalization in schools, such as:

  • Lack of social interaction
  • Dependency on technology
  • Minimal physical activity
  • Risks related to cybersecurity
  • Inequalities in access to technology
  • Challenges in adapting teachers to new teaching methods

Balancing Technology and Tradition in Education

“The future of education is not about technology versus tradition. It is about finding a balance between the two that best meets the needs of students. But the most important thing is thorough, extensive, and deep knowledge. Only through this foundation can we effectively shape critical thinking skills,” says Katarzyna Kowaluk, CEO of Absolut Systems. In the Swedish context, this means returning to traditional textbooks while also embracing the potential of digital technologies.

The application of new technologies poses a kind of challenge for the education system, especially in its earliest stages. They cannot be completely abandoned, but their use can be significantly reduced for the benefit of the youngest students. Experts from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm confirmed, for example, that children up to two years old should not use tablets at all, and traditional toys are best for their brain development.

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