American vs. Swedish education system

The week before spring break is usually hectic for college students; there are projects and midterms, and all the regular homework at the same time. In the middle of the stress that arises from all the assignments I have to do, I started thinking about the differences between the education system here and in Sweden.

When people here ask me what the biggest difference is, I usually say that the education in Sweden is free. But when I think about it, there are a lot more differences, and they are huge. Here are five things about the American education system that are different from the Swedish one:

1. Focus on practice. One of the biggest differences between the Swedish and American education system, which is one of the reasons I wanted to study in the U.S., is that the American universities combine theoretical learning with practical training. My major is communication, and in the classes at my home university I only get to do academic things, whereas at Purdue I get to do practical things, such as producing video and television projects, and writing this blog.

My classmates in television production get ready for producing a talkshow.

2. Classes are many and mandatory. In Sweden I used to have about three lectures every week, and they were not mandatory. The teachers don’t care what you do; it’s up to you if you want to learn and get good grades. I like the freedom, but you need to have some level of discipline because the learning is your own responsibility. But I don’t mind having to go to class here; for me it’s a way of hanging out with my friends.

3. Personal and interactive learning. The teachers in America are more personal, and they challenge you in a different way. I think one reason is that the classes are smaller in the U.S. But I also think it has to do with commitment. I feel that the teachers here are more willing to get to know and help the students. I like this personal atmosphere in the classrooms; it makes it more fun to learn.

4. Homework mania. Seriously, why do they give us so much homework in the U.S.? It feels like I’m back in high school! Joking apart, when I came to Purdue I was not used to having to do homework every day. In the Swedish universities we don’t get homework. Reading is suggested, but there are no reading assignments.


5. Exams are frequent and short. I must say I love the exams in America. Since they are frequent, they are short, which means you don’t need to study a lot for them. In Sweden we usually have a huge final exam that covers everything, and it takes about four to five hours to take it. They give us a week off from school before the exam, just because there is so much to study. For the last exam I took before I came here, I had to learn four books, no study guide. Fun…

Even though the differences are big, I don’t think one way is better than the other, especially now that I’m used to the American system. What are the differences between the American and your country’s education system?


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