The national curriculum dictates that students must learn to write legibly by hand between Years 1 and 3. While no model is prescribed, nowadays there is marked preference towards textad stil, or print script.
Education in Sweden is overseen by three main government authorities: the Utbildningsdepartementet, or Ministry of Education and Research, is responsible for education and research policies; the Skolinspektionen, or the Swedish School Inspectorate, oversees school quality and monitors compliance to the Education Act; and the Skolverket, or National Agency of Education, provides information about education, and administers public funding and grants.
Children start with förskoleklass, or preschool, also known as Year 0. This is followed by lågstadiet, or primary school comprising Years 1–3; mellanstadiet, or middle school that is Years 4–6; and högstadiet, or high school, consisting of Years 7–9. All these stages of education are compulsory. Compulsory education also includes sameskolor, or Sami schools, for indigenous Sami children. Gymnasium, or upper secondary school, i.e. Grades 10-11, is optional.
School education is tuition-free, and tax-financed. Since 1992, parents can choose to send their children to either municipal schools, or to friskola, or independent schools, that also depend on public funding.
The latest edition of the national curriculum was published by the Skolverket in 2019. It received an update in 2022, which was implemented in the autumn semester the same year. The curriculum only specifies that between Years 1 and 3, students must learn to write legibly by hand, as well as on computers. No prescriptions about what model of handwriting should be taught are made. As a result, teachers choose the method and model of handwriting they teach, creating wide variations across municipalities, schools and even classrooms. In general, the teaching of handwriting starts in the first grade, and by the end of the third grade children are expected to write in legible and well-formed handwriting, either in cursive or print script style. This system has been in place since 1985.
Until recently, popular handwriting teaching publications in Sweden included those featuring looped cursive handwriting, such as Skrivstil by Brigitta Falk published by Sanoma Utbildning (2009), and Skrivstilen A by Inger Grälls published by Liber (2010. 1st Ed. 1989). However, as this model has begun falling out of use in classrooms, publishers are updating their offerings with new books that feature only textad stil, or print script style.
Sample pages of Handstil – skrivstil, 2009. Birgitta Falk, Sanoma Utbildning.
Towards a simplified model
Starting in 1942, there were series of initiatives in Sweden to simplify the handwriting model used for teaching in schools, which at the time was based closely on English Roundhand.
The Wagnsson välskrivningskommittén, or Wagnsson good-writing committee, was formed the same year with the goal of reforming school handwriting models. The committee agreed to a new Swedish model called normalskriften, or standard script, which was an italic style. Normalskriften was championed by one of its members, Bror Zachrisson (1906–1983), who was a designer, typographer and teacher.
In the following decades, several handwriting styles continued to be used in Swedish schools: English roundhand, which dates back to the the early 20th century; Normalskriften, recommended by the Wagnsson välskrivningskommittén in 1942; Funktionell handstil, a heavily-sloped continuous cursive style developed in 1952; and Skrivkursen Pennan, from 1960.
The Skolöverstyrelsen, or School Board of Education, tasked noted Swedish calligrapher Kerstin Ankers (1931-2012) in 1972 to create a new handwriting model for teaching that could unify the writing style in the country’s schools. She developed a model inspired by contemporary British italic styles, primarily the work of Tom Gourdie. It was called SÖ-stilen, or school board style, and was simple, un-looped, partially-joined. The Skolöverstyrelsen made the use of SÖ-stilencompulsory for all primary schools in Sweden, but the model was poorly received by teachers, who had not been consulted and were not involved in its conception.
In general, teachers felt unprepared to teach this new writing style. The model’s failure can also be attributed to the reduction in time given for handwriting education in schools, as well as decreased teacher training. Finally in 1985, the Skolöverstyrelsen rolled back its regulation regarding SÖ-stilen, and it was no longer compulsory.
In the years following the rescinding of the regulation, there was a great deal of variation in how handwriting was taught, not just across schools but even within different classrooms in the same institution. Once again, Normalskriften became popular in many schools, while others opted for unjoined writing or modern cursives. Nowadays, there is a clear tendency in schools to use textad stil, or print script.
Sample pages of Handstil – textad stil, 2009. Birgitta Falk, Sanoma Utbildning.