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EDUCATION

Outrage over language ban proposal

Elementary students in Sweden with foreign backgrounds should no longer be allowed to study maths in their native languages, according to a Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) working group.

“We are very skeptical toward the experiment taking place around Sweden right now, with maths being taught in Arabic. The risk is that it will worsen students’ development of Swedish language skills,” said Christer Nylander, a Liberal Riksdag member and head of the party’s working group on education policy, to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

The proposal has drawn criticism from the Green Party, which wants to give children and young people who come to Sweden from other countries the right to learn both maths and English in their mother tongue.

“It’s not only effective for teaching mathematics, but it’s also been shown to be effective for learning Swedish. The Liberal Party is going against everything they stand for with this idiocy,” Green Party spokesperson Maria Wetterstrand told SvD.

“The goal still must be to have more students leave elementary school with passing marks in maths, Swedish and English. There are no rational grounds for taking a measure as coercive as a ban.”

Nylander contends that research into the success of teaching subjects in students’ native language are inclusive, pointing to a study by the European Forum on Migration Studies, carried out at the request of the European Commission.

“It’s not supported by international research that it results in positive results in the subject,” he said.

However Carla Jonsson, a researcher at the Centre for Research on Bilingualism (Centrum för tvåspråkighetsforskning) at Stockholm University, thinks the ban would not only prevent learning in students’ mother tongues, but that their knowledge of the subject and of the Swedish language would also suffer.

“It would also send out the signal that minority languages aren’t worth anything and lead to students feeling a diminished desire to learn Swedish,” she told the newspaper.

The working group’s proposal is set to be reviewed at the Liberal Party’s national meeting in November.

According to 2007 statistics from the National Education Agency (Skolverket), more than 18,000 elementary school students in Sweden receive lessons in Arabic, more than any other foreign language. Second most common is Spanish, with 5,000 students being taught, followed by Albanian, Bosnian, Somali and Persian.

Roughly 3,900 school children receive lessons in English, the seventh most common language represented in the agency’s statistics.

HEALTH

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 

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