Sweden's Social Democrats Pledges to Ban Religious Schools

(Bloomberg) -- Sweden’s governing Social Democrats pledged to ban religious schools in an effort to combat segregation, as it outlines its education policy ahead of this year’s general election.

The school system’s foundation should be knowledge, learning, equality and democratic values where each pupil "is free to form their own ideas and future," the party, which leads a minority government with the Greens, said in a statement. It should give all pupils, regardless of background, gender or religion, a good education and be free from confessional elements, it said.

"In our schools, teachers and principals should make the decisions, not priests or imams," Minister for Upper Secondary School and Adult Education and Training Anna Ekstrom said at a press conference in Stockholm.

While Sweden has a long tradition of private schools complementing the public education system, the number of such institutions exploded after the country in the early 1990s required municipalities to provide them with funding. While most of those schools have a general focus, some are specialized in a special pedagogy or language while others focus on a religion such as Christianity or Islam. According to the Social Democrats, that has created more segregation.

At the press conference, Sweden’s Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi said the Swedish education system needs to be based on the values and principals in the Swedish constitution. Shekarabi, who grew up with gender-segregated schools with religious influence in Iran, said in the statement that he will "never accept that the oppression that I and many with me have fled from will find its way into the Swedish education system."

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