Breaking the digital trend: Sweden goes back to books, papers, pencils at schools for better education

Breaking the digital trend: Sweden goes back to books, papers, pencils at schools for better education
A Young boy practices writing alphabet characters while homeschooling- Sgutterstock

Although Sweden was one of the European countries that adopted digital skills into its educational curricula since July 1, 2018, it has now announced going back to using textbooks rather than digital versions in an attempt to improve education.


Sweden Minister of Education Lotta Edholm announced in an article published in Göteborgs-Posten on Tuesday that it was proven by studies presented by the Swedish National Agency for Education that students who are reading textbooks can understand better than those who are using digital texts.


“Those who had read printed text were better able to reproduce main points, remembered more parts, and showed overall better reading comprehension. Furthermore, there are studies that show that children who use paper and pencil write longer essays, have an easier time recognizing letters, and remember more of the teaching,” she wrote.


She mentioned some experts’ warnings against making children spend more time on screens, noting that this does not mean that digitization should be abandoned, but it should be used in a “well-thought-out way,” as the students are living and dealing with the digital world as well.


“Properly used, digital tools, or digital elements, are also good and necessary supplements to the textbook,” she added.


Edholm revealed that the government has allocated 685 million kroner already this year and half a billion kroner annually thereafter to replace “screen time with reading time.”


“The mass digitization of the school has been a mistake. Screens have been allowed to displace books, paper and pencils. We are now breaking that trend. There is a reason why people talk about the magic of books, and not of tablets,” she said.


According to a study published in Sage Journals on June 29, 2021, and titled “The Effects of Handwriting Experience on Literacy Learning”, the results showed that handwriting practices positively affect faster learning.


Digital transformation in the education sector was imposed on the whole world, especially after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2019 when the world seemed to compulsively move towards digital transformation due to the closure of schools, and therefore there was only online education, said Egyptian education expert Magdy Hamza in comments to Jusoor Post.


He added that online education has proven its failure in many stages, and therefore some large countries such as Malaysia, Japan, and some European countries tended once again to have education through direct contact between the student and the teacher, along with the use of paper and pencils.


Moving towards digital education made students concentrate less and made their ability to express language low, and thus their ability to deal with paper and pen decreased, because the origin of education is the direct connection between students and their teachers, Hamza said, noting that more than 250 million children have no basic skills of reading and writing according to UNESCO.


“From my personal point of view, e-learning did not reach the required level of education and therefore did not develop the skills of pupils and students in all stages of education, and direct contact is the finest education in developing educational skills,” he said.


In May 2023, UNESCO said that 771 million young people and adults, 75% of whom are women, cannot read and write, while “250 million children are failing to acquire basic literacy skills. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the worst disruption to education in a century, 617 million children and teenagers had not reached minimum reading levels.”