Towards decentralisation and collaboration in the swedish school: what are the consequences for physical education

Por: Inger Karlefors e Martin Johansson.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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In many countries, including Sweden, the subject of physical education (pe) is viewed as being in a crisis, since the mandatory hours in the school schedule have been reduced [1]. The subject is weakened when the mandatory hours are decreasing. There are researchers who argue that collaboration with other teachers would strengthen the position of the subject and the pe-teachers in schools and lead to a solution, or at least a stabilisation, of the crisis [2]. For a deeper understanding of this issue it is necessary to discuss it in the context of the recent changes in the Swedish school system. Collaboration, integration, individualisation, and decentralisation are important concepts/ tools in the current school development in Sweden. The aim of this study is 1) to describe and analyze why and how Swedish pe-teachers collaborate and 2) to discuss the consequences of such a collaboration for the subject of physical education in Swedish compulsory schools.


Beside analyses of syllabus and local school plans a questionnaire was distributed to 100 teachers in physical education and to 50 schools randomly selected. Of the 154 pe-teachers who answered the questionnaire, 30 were interviewed. Seventeen working units were also interviewed. The interviews focused on the teachers’ experiences and opinions of collaboration in general and physical education in particular. This paper is mainly based on the interviews. Basil Bernstein´s conceptual framework and his concepts of classification and framing, collection code and integrated code are used as analytic tools [3].


We found that the proposal of the Swedish school commission of 1997 about the current school development is in accordance with Bernstein’s concept of integrated code. Swedish compulsory school is undergoing a shift from a collection code towards an integrated code. This means that collaboration is not just a question of organising teachers and teachers work; it is also a step towards a new educational code, integrated code. Six different categories of collaboration with physical education teachers involved are identified. Category A is most similar to the integrated code and category F is most similar to the collection code. In all categories the subject of physical education is not involved in the collaboration.. The collaboration is mainly between the teachers.


These results show that there are very different opinions among the teachers how to teach and cooperate with other teachers. Our discussion of this paper focus on: 1) the problematic situation when the Swedish authorities want physical education teachers to work in accordance with an integrated code when our results shows that they are so heterogenous as a group; 2) the conditions/ frame factors that is necessary for such a collaboration to work according to this study; 3) the argument that more mandatory hours in physical education will be a solution to crisis of the subject when the school in a more general sense seems to develop in accordance with the integrated code; 4) if our results give support or not to the argument that collaboration and integration of physical education strengthen its position in the Swedish School.


[1] Hardman, K., & Marshall, J. (2000) World-wide Survey of the State and Status of School PhysicalEducation
Manchester, University of Manchester.
[2] Placek, J.H. (1992). Quest, 44,330-341.
[3] Bernstein, B. (1977). Class, Codes and Control. Towards a Theory of Educational Transmission. London, Taylor&Francis.






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