Interview with Annika Agelii Genlott on Data in Education in Sweden

Annika has a PhD in Informatics and works as a Project Leader at the Swedish Association for Local Regions (SALAR) and was the Project Manager of the National Action Plan for the Digitalization of Education, handed over to the Swedish government in 2019. In 2020 Annika finished her dissertation on how digitalization within education can be more effectively led by principal organizers of school in the local regions of Sweden. 

1. You were involved in the development of the National Action Plan for Digitalisation in Sweden. Could you tell us what the implications of this plan are for Agile EDU?

Between 2017-2019, I was the Project Manager for the Swedish Action Plan for Digitalization of Schools that was handed over to the Government in 2019. The Action Plan was a great success, and the reason was (contrary to the National Strategy for Digitalisation of Schools) that is was based on basic conditions and needs on national, regional and local levels among e.g., the organiser of schools, school leaders, teachers and students. The core of the action plan was the (18) summarised key factors, or so-called initiatives, which pointed out: 1) what needed to be solved; 2) authorities on which level (national, regional or local) were responsible; 3) which actors were responsible. The implications for Agile EDU would, from my experience and point of view, be that the identified key factors clearly point out responsibilities and roles on both international, national, regional and local levels. If not, there is a risk that even though we identify the important key factors, the complexity within the educational school system and between different actors hinders the realisation of the outcome and proposals of Agile EDU.

2. Local authorities in Sweden govern the school sector. What are the advantages and enablers of this structure for digitalisation and using data in education?

Even though the local authorities in Sweden are autonomous to a great extent, there is a shared responsibility between the state and local authorities. This decentralisation, of course, has its pros and cons. The 290 local authorities in Sweden and around 1300 independent schools are different both in terms of size, population and geographical circumstances. The advantages and enablers of the Swedish decentralised structure are that the local authorities have a much better insight into the basic prerequisites and possibilities that each school has. The disadvantage, on the other hand, is that each authority builds its own structure for digitalisation and using data in education. This has been going on for quite some time as Sweden suffers from a great lack of interoperability between different systems and actors within the educational school system. For example, when a student moves from one municipality to another, digital information, such as grades, does not flow easily through the system. Frequently, the grades need to be transferred onto analogue documents and then back to digital form at the new school or municipality.  

3. What are the challenges that local authorities, schools and teachers face when using data in education? How can Agile EDU help overcome these challenges?

Some of the challenges are the lack of competences around jurisdictional use of data and the lack of competences in ethical and appropriate use of data. This concerns all levels, all the way from the classroom to national level where data are used and decisions from those data are taken.

4.How would you complete this sentence: "Data use in education is…"

Data use in education is already today inevitable and brings with itself both opportunities and challenges. Used properly, it can contribute to higher quality of education, increased learning and better decisions taken on different levels. If misused, it can lead to incalculable damages at both individual and organisational level.