• Sweden edition
Teaching boost urged for multicultural kids

Teaching boost urged for multicultural kids

Published: 30 Nov 2010 13:27 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Nov 2010 13:27 GMT+01:00

Multilingual students at Sweden's preschools and schools are falling behind due to an inability of teachers to address their needs, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) announced on Tuesday.

The Inspectorate is looking at ways to improve and enhance the educational experiences of its students who come from multilingual backgrounds, which according to the sample of primary and secondary schools in the study totals one in five students.

"All children in Sweden have an unconditional right to education, regardless of whether their mother tongue is Swedish or not. We see that preschools and schools have a general interest in the multilingual children's different experiences and backgrounds," Agneta Ericsson, project leader at the Inspectorate wrote in a statement.

"However, we often forget these experiences when planning operations. The result is that the children's language and knowledge development slows and it becomes needlessly difficult for them to achieve the goals of the school," she added.

Separately, Sveriges Radio's Ekot news bulletin reported on Tuesday morning that one in four students with a foreign background left school without the qualifications for college (gymnasium) compared with one in 10 pupils with a Swedish background.

The agency examined how preschools and schools work with language and knowledge development to help multilingual children and students meet national objectives.

The agency undertook a study at 21 preschools and 21 schools in 12 municipalities at. The agency's findings do not necessarily apply to all preschools and schools in the country.

Instead, it offers examples of both the problems and solutions of what can be done to improve the language and knowledge development in multilingual children, the government agency stated.

The agency found that there are weak multilingual and intercultural perspectives within schools, saying it was rare for preschools and schools to connect activities to concepts that a multilingual child could recognise and create context and understanding.

In addition, staff appeared to know little more about the children beyond the languages that they speak. Activities and teaching rarely made use of the children's different experiences and cultural backgrounds.

It also considered the development of mother tongue abilities as "someone else's responsibility," either through mother tongue teachers or parents.

The agency pointed out that schools seldom followed up on the students' reception of the material and on their individual development. Separately, the role of Swedish as a second language remained unclear.

The agency emphasised that multilingual children are individuals with different experiences, needs, interests and linguistic and competence levels.

As such, it urged schools to address their deficiencies in improving the education experiences of these children by learning more about them, accommodating their curriculum to reference their backgrounds and challenging them in their teaching.

It also highlighted ensuring that preschools help children develop their mother tongue skills and setting high standards for them to achieve objectives, as well as working with other teachers and language teachers.

If necessary, it also suggested offering tutoring in the student's native language and further developing the teaching of Swedish as a second language.

TT/Vivian Tse (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:47 November 30, 2010 by Swedesmith
More and more responsibilities fall upon schools in general and upon teachers in paticular. If these responsibilities are not met, and a generation of kids grow up without the proper education, the costs to society will be tremendous.
15:59 November 30, 2010 by Tennin
The people I went to SFI with, their children became completely fluent in Swedish within the first year or 2 of living in Sweden and going to school. Even the 16 and 18 year olds picked up Swedish amazingly quick, and were studying in normal Swedish gymnasium after being in Sweden for 1.5 years.

The kids that were below elementary school levels basically just went to normal Swedish schools and learned Swedish from classmates, friends and school. The older kids went to SFI and had special Swedish as a second language classes to help them with their studies.

My friend's children learned alot of Swedish from dagis, and were able to go into normal Swedish elementary school with no problems, after living in Sweden for a couple of months. Her little children are now teaching her Swedish since they think mommy speaks funny.
16:21 November 30, 2010 by Youdee
I think this is a bunch of bullshit. I grew up in a multicultural environment, and I'm sick of the blame being put on teachers and schools.

Skolinspektionen obviously didn't do its homework (excuse the pun). I believe that national and internation research would prove otherwise.

True: national exams must attempt to be as cultural neutral as possible (e.g., avoiding terms used only in various regions). But to fulfill recommendations by Skolinspektionen? Who's gonna pay for this?

I'd also like to know the stats on Swedish kids who come from blue collar families -- compared to data on immigrant children.
16:34 November 30, 2010 by skatty
I think there are different points of views to look at the subject.

One is what school the kids are going, if they are studying in a school belong to the ghetto areas of the big cities; then language and knowledge development would be limited to the ghetto life experiment. Now I leave it to the experts to figure out what ghetto life experiment is! Study in a school with almost 99% students, mostly from developing countries, with high rate of unemployed parents.

Anyway, I have always wondered what the "NATIONAL OBJECTIVES" are. Is it to build the future Kebab and Pizza sellers from the present kids of the developing countries, or is it to create a new version of a Swenson by mutation?
16:47 November 30, 2010 by roaringchicken92
If you choose to live in Sweden, you learn the Swedish language and Swedish culture. If you want to learn about your native culture and develop your native language, your parents should teach you, or stay in your native country. Multiculturalism works both ways -- a student in a foreign country should learn the language and culture of the country emigrated to.

If one chose to live on the moon, would you a) bring some air, water, and food with you to survive on, or b) immediately suffocate and die because you feel entitled to have these things provided for you?
17:03 November 30, 2010 by Rishonim

People who choose to live in Sweden don't need to learn the language nor the culture. I choose to live here and I opted not to learn the language because I consider it to be poor and frankly speaking quite boring. Regarding the culture, well, I summered it up the first three months living here. When it comes to refugees then I agree they should learn the language and do their utmost to integrate. I think the problem is that the system want to make people Swedish as quickly as possible. Look at the USA, people move there and after 20 years still cannot muster two words of English and somehow they manage to survive. China town, Miami etc.
17:17 November 30, 2010 by unseen

it is not about choice my friend!!! it is a bout kids!! would kids choose to learn a language or not is a weird question!!!!!!!!

my son goes to school and my daughter goes to kindergarten. both of them have no mentioned problem with Swedish language! it is me and others same as my age have problems with Swedish!!! it is not about my choice again to face difficulties with the spoken language in the country where I LIVE... i wonder and go wooooow when i see people think that we can speak fluent Swedish but we don't want to!!! my friend, that is totally wrong...i would pay for exchanging my three fluent languages and even my little knowledge of English with any one speaks fluent Swedish, the reason is obvious, i live in Sweden...

please don't think that i am lazy to learn a language, i have done that before and i have studied languages that i never been in a country that speak it. i am doing my best, studying SAS B, reading book, watching TV and desperately trying to find Swedish friends to practice speaking.

to learn a foreign language is easy. grape some books, newspapers and watch TV. to learn a language as a second language is quite complicated. why? the answer is that you are not supposed to translate from your native language to your second. you have to have it. you have to think in it and just speak it. dictionaries don't help on this one. you have to listen and to listen a lot to a native speaker so you figure out which term is the right one for that situation.

help me! you don't have to pay me or something, just be a friend of mine or of someone like me. i promise we both will benefit that.
17:19 November 30, 2010 by calebian22
People who live in Sweden need to learn the language and the culture, period.

I agree with post 2 and 3. Children are sponges. Language aquisition is easy for them especially at the dagis level and the beginning levels of school. Something seems to be a bit off here, regarding the "agenda."
17:44 November 30, 2010 by skatty

I just want to point out a common misunderstanding in Sweden. As a matter of fact, it is not the refuges, who suppose to do their utmost to integrate; it is the immigrants, who suppose to do their utmost to integrate.

You see the different between immigrants and refugees is the possibilities, alternatives and choices. Immigrants choose a country and emigrate there by considering different facts. But refugees choose whatever country, which can solve their problems in the best possible way without farther attention to details. A remarkable number of refugees come to Sweden because they believe that Sweden accepts them easier, and the price to come is cheaper, and the risk of passing different borders illegally is less.

The refugees might not have any interest to live in the host country at all and it may take very long time just to accept their destiny to remain in the host country, depends how adaptive the host country is. Refuges become more passive with less adaptive countries.

However, immigrant are looking to the details likes job possibilities, taxes, climate, language, culture, standard of life, people, and possibilities, schools, universities and many different facts to conclude if it worth to emigrate to a new country or not.

Now, why you think it's the refugees, who suppose to integrate and not immigrant has a reason in Sweden. The reason is that in Sweden, the system has tried to change the meaning of refugees with immigrants for almost 30 years. I think one reason is to make an unrealistic atmosphere that people are interested to immigrate to Sweden. As a matter of fact most of people, who moved here in the last 30 years, were refugees and not immigrants.
18:51 November 30, 2010 by Douglas Garner

I like you thought process. One additional thought, is that many refugees DO decide to become immigrants and DO make the decision and attempt to integrate. Society does not always recognize the difference... sort of a - they all look alike- situation. With the recent recession, even those of us who chose to immigrate face similar situations.

The article, however, discusses the problem of qualifying to enter Swedish university. A certain level of language competency is required. This is beyond the range of daily communication, gymnasium study, etc. It requires grammar and writing abilities as well. This is where we need to focus! Swedish as a second language students need to be able to assimilate the full bredth of language skills in order to assure success in university and business.
19:01 November 30, 2010 by unseen

well said.

i've been screaming to get people attention to the difference between immigrants and refugees...i've asked many refugees how the hell did they end up in Sweden and the answer of many of them was "the smuggler chose it for us".

excuse my understanding to what i see in nowadays Sweden:

Swedish people elected Swedish government. Swedish government sighted that certain people are entitled to stay in Sweden(live, study and work). Swedish people blame the government for their immigration policy. blame keeps going. the Swedish people elect the same blamed government for keeping their policy regarding immigration. nor the government change their policy neither the people accept it. refugees among smugglers, Swedish government and Swedish people. refugees most likely from third world countries. they are way behind Europe, precisely Sweden. problems are always their because of the social inequality.

barriers get created between natives and immigrants.

many refugees gave up and blame it all for the on Swedish people and government, which i don't understand why. natives start to get tired of immigrants.


it really hurts me to see immigrants live in certian places within cities. that is going to cost Sweden a lot. readers of the local from European countries , USA or what from to what is refer to as first world countries, industrial countries others would say, see Sweden in different ways. for many refugees Sweden is a big western country with a huge potential. with all due respect to Somalian people, but am i going to ask Somalians live in Sweden to help themselves and help Sweden? or i ask Swedes to help Somalians and eventually to help Sweden?
19:56 November 30, 2010 by TheOriginalBlackMan
The Swedish Educational department must require that all language teachers that teach Swedish are able to speak English at least, be able to speak and write proficient English and speak in a coherent English tone.

I am currently in SFI and for the most part I am on my own. 98% of the Swedish female teacher's speak very poor English, Spanish or Isi-Zulu for that matter. Also, I have come to the conclusion that the reason college is free in Sweden has more to do with keeping incompetent Swedish teachers employ rather than teaching the populous.

Finally, one does not need to love a language to actually learn it however Swedish is not what one would call a beautiful language, indeed, it's rather jarring and high pitched. I see it dying out in a less than 40 years. For all those in Sweden working for a international company or living with Swede, learn Swedish at your own peril.

It will add nothing to your life. Outside of Sweden and even in Sweden it is totally useless.
21:21 November 30, 2010 by Kaethar
@roaringchicken92: This. In fact the current attitude is completely right. It's up to the mother tongue teachers and parents to teach foreign language and culture - NOT Swedish schools. Swedish schools are to teach Swedish and Swedish culture (that is, norms). If you try to incorporate "cultural differences" from every single background kids have that would make one hell of a mess. The reason integration is somewhat successful in Sweden is because kids raised in Sweden tend to be very Swedish culturally, even if they live in schools with a high number of people of immigrant background.

Why the grade differences? Check SOCIAL CLASS, not ethnic background. Many immigrants/refugees and therefore their offspring come from poor backgrounds in Sweden, therefore skewing their school results.
23:01 November 30, 2010 by Rishonim
@skatty. I think there is a misunderstanding here. I am an immigrant to Sweden; by this I mean I moved here by free will with a job and an apartment in one of the so called desirable areas in Stockholm. I did not have to learn the poor and limited language because I had and continue to have the choice not to learn it. If I get tired of the bloody socially and climate cold place, I have the option to move legally to any European country, the USA, Latin America or Israel. I don't need to integrate into the social spectrum of Sweden if I don't want to. Unfortunately I don't see a refugee having the same options. Consequently they need to learn the language and try really hard to get accepted into this sterile society...
23:37 November 30, 2010 by unseen

i always like to read ur comments. i am learning a lot through them. keep them going.

to be specific on your point, i am an immigrant. i joined my refugee wife and son. i was moved by the American Embassy back in Baghdad to the US for security reasons. i had the chance to choose whether stay in the US or reunite with my family and follow them to Sweden. obviously, i chose to come to Sweden. now, i have a problem with identifying myself living in Sweden. am i an immigrant? refugee? i don't know!!!

the state says through my permit that i am an immigrant.

what i am trying to say here is although i am an immigrant but i have no choice only to integrate with all aspects of life in Sweden. it is not an easy task, but i am trying my best. i wish that i have same as your situation. wish me luck, lots of it.
00:14 December 1, 2010 by OnessOfMankind
SFI waste of time I tell you what it is exactly its a prison lock so they know immigrants are somewhere and not working in black, its a piece of crap I know many who went there for years and years and got no improvement.

BUT their children played in dagis and elementary schools learned like 10 folds faster like the second comment...

And the racist wether immigrant racist or Swedish racist your comment is disgraceful and mean and CHEAP shallow, shows how worthless you are.
10:35 December 1, 2010 by ghostwriter
I read some of the posts above.

I must say that a majority of you guys are completely clueless of what it means to move to a different country & learn a culture.

I'm currently living abroad (native Swede) and i do run into a lot of people like you, who just lack curiousity. They complain about the locals all the time. Locals are "brainwashed", "chimps", "whimps", "uneducated", "inconsiderate" and "stupid". They're always, and i mean always, completely clueless about themselves and they country they're in.

About SFI.

I didn't get (or take) any language courses and i learnt (and am learning) the language.

You complain like babies.

You get it served. Free language courses. There you go.

Don't like your teacher? If you really want to learn a language, you won't care about SFI. You will just learn it.

There are couple of decent people on here, who know where they are and what it's about. But the rest of you? - I'm pretty sure Sweden will give you what you deserve.
11:35 December 1, 2010 by skatty

I have realised that you are an immigrant, and as you mentioned you moved here by free will with job and an apartment, which means that you have considered Sweden fulfil your expectation as a country for immigration. The criteria of your expectations have been job and the apartment.

However, integration policy is more for immigrant rather than refugee, because the driving motivations to stimulate an immigrant and a refugee to move to Sweden are different for these two individuals.

You have the chance to integrate (let say learn the language) in to the Swedish society if you wish, after all it has been your own choice to come in here, and you are free to leave here whenever you wish.

The refugee lives with closed hands; and the Swedish system by classifying them as immigrants, give them the idea that it has been their own choice to come to Sweden, they are immigrants and are going to integrate themselves into their new society, it's their wish and desire to live in here, because Sweden has high standards of life (the system brainwash them a lot).

As you have mentioned refugees don't have options, but they should not realise that they don't actually have options. For this matter they are classified as immigrant to implements the idea that they have options. It's like telling you are a free man, you have lot of possibilities, you are going to reach this positions if you learn the language or do these things and that things, but behind the curtain everybody know that there is no other way!
12:01 December 1, 2010 by Dr. Dillner
As long as we remember that 2+2=4 is the same no matter what language it is in, not some false notion that schooling done under a unified national language is bad: When in Rome, speak Roman . . .
13:21 December 1, 2010 by WelshSwede
Is it me or only a short time ago they said that multi lingual children have a better future. This site sucks!
21:41 December 3, 2010 by Iftikhar_Ahmad
Bilingual Muslims children have a right, as much as any other faith group, to be taught their culture, languages and faith alongside a mainstream curriculum. More faith schools will be opened under sweeping reforms of the education system in England. There is a dire need for the growth of state funded Muslim schools to meet the growing needs and demands of the Muslim parents and children. Now the time has come that parents and community should take over the running of their local schools. Parent-run schools will give the diversity, the choice and the competition that the wealthy have in the private sector. Parents can perform a better job than the Local Authority because parents have a genuine vested interest. The Local Authority simply cannot be trusted.

The British Government is planning to make it easier to schools to "opt out" from the Local Authorities. Muslim children in state schools feel isolated and confused about who they are. This can cause dissatisfaction and lead them into criminality, and the lack of a true understanding of Islam can ultimately make them more susceptible to the teachings of fundamentalists like Christians during the middle ages and Jews in recent times in Palestine. Fundamentalism is nothing to do with Islam and Muslim; you are either a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This mean the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islam's teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands.

Bilingual Muslim children need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models. A Cambridge University study found that single-sex classes could make a big difference for boys. They perform better in single-sex classes. The research is promising because male students in the study saw noticeable gains in the grades. The study confirms the Islamic notion that academic achievement is better in single-sex classes.

Iftikhar Ahmad

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