STOCKHOLM - Sweden needs to raise standards in classrooms and make teaching a more attractive profession in order to reverse its plummeting school grades, the OECD said in a new report Monday.
A heated debate on educational standards has raged in the Nordic country since December 2013 when it fell faster than any other industrialised country in the OECD's so-called PISA ranking of school performance among 15-year-olds.
Sweden came 28 out of 34 countries in mathematics and 27 out of 34 in reading and science.
The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said in statement that the country had "failed to improve its school system despite a series of reforms" and that a "more ambitious, national reform strategy is now urgently needed".
Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director of Education and Skills, said students should be given more challenging tasks in the classroom and that Sweden needed to raise the status of teaching, which has been undermined by relatively low salaries and heavy workloads.
"The teaching profession is no longer attractive in Sweden," he told reporters.
"Only five per cent of teachers think what they do everyday is respected by society." The report also warned of growing inequality with almost half (48 per cent) of immigrant children failing to make the grade in mathematics and called for changes to the free school-choice system to counteract the risk of segregation.
Anna Ekstroem, head of Sweden's education agency, said "no one was surprised" by the critical report which was requested by the outgoing centre-right government last year.
"Our education system has problems," she said, adding: "we have a clear view of the challenges the Swedish school system is facing." Sweden's left-green government has launched an inquiry into new education reforms due to report next year and had pledged a major increase in teaching salaries from 2016.