‘Don’t Touch Our National Anthem!’ – Swedes Rebel Against Changes in School Syllabus


The Swedish National Agency for Education had previously suggested removing ancient history from the school curriculum, but backed down after a public uproar.

In its upcoming proposal for a new primary school syllabus, Sweden’s National Agency for Education has erased the national anthem and religious hymns, the newspaper Expressen reported.

Whereas the current syllabus includes “the national anthem and some of the most common hymns”, as well as insights into the history of Swedish and Nordic children’s songs, the revised version merely contains “Music that fits with the students’s everyday context and musical traditions at various festivals”.

As was previously reported, the new curriculum fails to include historic eras such as the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Swedish imperial era in the history curriculum; major cuts are also made to the geography programme. However, some of the changes were rolled back due to massive public outrage.

The gloomy fate of the national anthem has also sparked a strong reaction.

Among others, Hans Albin Larsson, the former head of the School Inspectorate, professor emeritus in history and educational science at Jönköping University, and former chairman of the History Teachers’ Association, issued a critical statement in the teachers’ trade magazine Lärarnas tidning.

“Why students should not learn the national anthem at school, I don’t understand. No one thinks they are better than anyone else merely for mastering the Swedish national anthem,” Hans Albin Larsson said. “It’s about having some kind of basic general education,” he suggested.

While the school authorities may have had good intentions, he suggested, the new course of study nevertheless “came out completely wrong”.

“The National Agency for Education should have understood that the proposal would be controversial,” he added.

Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch Thor delivered a passionate speech slamming the authorities for plans to erase ancient history, the Bible, the national anthem and hymns from the school curriculum. She compared this to East Germany and pledged to counteract the plans.

“If the government lets this through, here is an election promise. We will tear up that decision. Our children are entitled to cultural heritage”, Busch Thor said, as quoted by Aftonbladet.

Former Liberal leader and former Education Minister Jan Björklund stressed that similar attempts had been made in 2011, but he insisted on putting the national anthem back where it belonged.

“We can’t have an authority that butchers key historical elements, that proposes strange changes about our national minorities and now has recently proposed that the children shouldn’t learn our national anthem in primary school,” current Liberal education policy spokesman Roger Haddad said, as quoted by Aftonbladet.

This attitude was widely shared among ordinary Swedes on social media.

One user encapsulated the sentiment by simply tweeting “Don’t touch our national anthem.”

​“Our national anthem is beautiful, it invokes passion about our motherland. Even talking about it not being allowed to sung at graduation is just absurd. Just listen”, another one tweeted.

​“Thou ancient, Thou free”, formerly known as “Song of the North” is a patriotic song from the 1840s that has been the de facto national anthem of Sweden since 1893, when king Oscar II rose in honour when it was played.



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