Everyone’s a WinnerColumn
His American professors would laugh at the Swedish system of letting students re-do exams without consequences for their grade. Justin Chan recognizes, however, the valuable aspects of this system.
A few weeks ago, I found myself playing brännboll with some friends. It’s a classic Swedish game involving hitting a ball with a stick and running around some bases.
As an American, I naturally brought along my competitive spirit, only to discover that my passion for beating the other team was rather inappropriate for that particular sporting atmosphere.
Brännboll aside, I’ve come to understand that competition with your peers is less present in many aspects of Swedish life.
Not to say that Sweden is absent competition. The country has football and hockey teams, as well as its Olympic-level athletes. But generally speaking, the significance of personal achievement is less measured by how much you outperform your peers.
Sweden’s university grading system serves as a great example. I was astounded to first learn that students are allowed to re-do exams and final papers, without penalty to their grade. Such a request would have sent my American professors into laughing fits. Even from my student perspective, I could not understand how some people could receive more time to accomplish a task and wind up with the same grade as others who did their work on time. Why would anyone be motivated to respect deadlines?
Comprehending this different system required changing my understanding of personal development. A competitive grading system where some pass and others fail would no doubt encourage some individuals to perform well, but in so doing leave others behind and feeling dejected.
If the goal, though, is to help every individual understand an idea or acquire a skill, no matter how much time that takes, then the Swedish system makes sense.
It seems that Swedes learn more for the sake of learning, not for the sake of outperforming their classmates. In this same spirit, Swedes probably don’t value jobs for the chance to earn more than their neighbors, since taxation keeps incomes in Sweden relatively close together. Simply being employed and being able to take care of yourself is meaningful, regardless of what your friends earn.
It’s a mindset that is conducive to satisfaction with your accomplishments. To go a step further, it’s a mindset better suited for happiness.