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Agency slams immigrant language class failings

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09:30 CET+01:00
Many of Sweden's municipalities fail to place newly arrived immigrants in Swedish language classes within the time frames stipulated by law, a new investigation has found.

“It's regrettable that municipalities don't prioritize the possibility for new arrivals to start their education as soon as possible,” Erica Sahlin, a project leader with the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen), said in a statement.

“The sooner one can start with Swedish, the easier it is for one to get established both in the labour market and in society in general.”

Around half of the 39 municipalities recently reviewed by the agency suffered from one shortcoming or another when it came to their ability to offer new arrivals a place in Swedish language classes specifically designed for immigrants.

According to Sweden's establishment reform laws, which came into force about a year ago and are designed to help ease immigrants' transition into Swedish society, newly arrived refugees should have the option of beginning Swedish language studies within one month of applying for a spot in Swedish for immigrants (Svenskundervisning för invandrare – SFI) language classes.

Municipalities are also urged to cooperate with local employment offices in order to allow immigrants to combine their studies with work or other measures meant to help them enter the job market more quickly.

In addition, Sweden's school law also stipulates that other immigrants should be able to start languages classes within three months of being registered as a resident in a given municipality.

But the inspectorate found that eight of the 39 municipalities it reviewed failed to offer new arrivals a spot in Swedish language classes within one month.

Eight municipalities also failed to abide by the three month time limit called for by the schools law.

Common reasons for municipalities' failure to abide to the time limits included office closures during the summer holidays or the fact that classes were only started a few times a year.

Swedish language class enrollment could also be delayed because students' children were unable to start preschool due to a lack of available spots.

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The agency also criticized 12 municipalities for haphazard management of their Swedish for immigrants programme and the fact that information about SFI is often only publicized in Swedish.

“Municipalities are obligated to ensure that those who have a right to enroll in SFI quickly get information about it; they should understand that it's a real possibility and that it's not something one should have to struggle to get information about,” Sahlin told Sveriges Radio (SR).

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