A leader in Swedish education is remembered for his lifetime’s work

published 13 February 2018 updated 8 June 2018

Family and friends traveled to Leksand, Sweden, to reflect on the life of Lars-Erik Klason, a champion of public education and trade unionism in both Sweden and around the world.

A memorial on the 9th of February gave those who knew Klason best the chance to remember a man who touched many lives. Klason died on the 31st of December after a short illness. He was 77.

In Sweden, Klason was known for dedicating his life’s work to education. After completing a PhD in political science, he began his career as a teacher in elementary and secondary school before going on to leading roles with the teachers’ union movement. He would be instrumental in merging two of the country’s national unions to create Lararforbundet.

However, Klason was also a major figure outside of Sweden’s borders. He held great influence on the global stage, beginning with his election as vice-president of the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP) in 1986. He is perhaps best known as one of the driving forces behind the creation of Education International (EI). It was at his urging that its constitutional congress be held in Stockholm.

“Lars-Erik was, first and foremost, a world citizen, and a passionate one for that matter. In the eighties and nineties, he mobilized education unions around the world to join the anti-apartheid struggle and help our South African colleagues set up their own independent, multi-racial teachers’ organization,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, who’s relationship with Klason dates back nearly 40 years. “He was also one of the first West European union leaders successfully mobilizing public funds for programs assisting education unions in the global south.”

For van Leeuwen, Klason’s passing came as a great shock as he was looking forward to celebrating the 25th anniversary of EI together.

“We are grateful for his legacy, we are grateful for what he leaves behind, for having set examples to many of us, as trade union activist, as a strong defender of democratic values and of public education, and as a very dear and generous friend.”

Klason, who was also known as an accomplished jazz pianist, is survived by hisdaughter Elisabet, her husband Björn and their children Axel and Bastian, and his daughter Katarina and her children Mattias and Johanna.