Swedish for Immigrants to undergo overhaul

Sweden's ministers for education and integration have announced far-reaching plans to improve the quality of language courses offered to immigrants.

Swedish for Immigrants to undergo overhaul

Writing in Monday’s Dagens Nyheter, Education Minister Jan Björklund and Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni outline a seven-step programme designed to demand more of both language learners and course providers.

“Alarming” deficiencies in the current Svenska för Invandrare (Swedish for Immigrants – SFI) system seriously hinder the job prospects of new arrivals, the ministers write.

“It is also entirely possible to use SFI as a form of income year after year, without actually gaining any language skills or producing any results,” they add.

The ministers further note that nine out of ten SFI teachers lack the relevant qualifications in Swedish as a Second Language, while a vague curriculum containing abstract goals makes it impossible for students to know what is expected of them.

In order to improve the standard of education offered, the ministers highlight seven areas that need to be improved:

First of all, compulsory national testing is to be introduced from January 1st 2009 for all SFI courses.

“The tests will form the basis for a course diploma and will increase equivalence across the country when it comes to results and assessment,” the ministers write.

The SFI curriculum, currently “too abstract”, will be redesigned to include clearly stated goals.

A time limit of three years is to be placed on completion of SFI studies. Unless there are valid reasons, such as sickness or parental leave, students who fail to meet this deadline will be moved on to adult education courses outside of the SFI system.

A performance-related bonus is to be introduced for students who manage to successfully complete their studies within a specific time frame.

The entire SFI system is to undergo an evaluation, “focusing on participants’ results, teachers’ competence and how the municipalities organize the education.”

The government is to set aside 61 million kronor until 2010 to ensure that SFI teachers are better qualified to help their students learn Swedish.

The two ministers conclude their article with an open jab at the opposition.

“The fact that the Alliance government has had record success when it comes to creating jobs for immigrants just puts the extent of the Social Democrats’ failure in perspective. Mona Sahlin bears a great deal of personal responsibility, particularly after her tenure as integration minister,” write Björklund and Sabuni.


Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime