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Language-learning bonus 'unfair' to struggling immigrants

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07:59 CEST+02:00
A proposal to offer performance-related bonuses to immigrants who complete state-funded language courses within one year has raised concerns from both students and teachers.

In March, the Swedish government presented plans to offer bonuses as an incentive for students enrolled in Swedish for Immigrants (Svenska för Invandrare - SFI) courses to complete their studies faster.

Specifically, students who pass the highest level of SFI are eligible to receive up to 12,000 kronor ($1,500).

Initially, fifteen of Sweden’s 290 municipalities are set to pilot the new programme starting January 1st.

Among other municipalities, Stockholm is one hoping to be one of the first to try out the new language-learning bonus programme, according to the Dagens Nyheter (DN),

But the government’s attempt to encourage immigrants to get through their languages studies and out into the workforce more quickly has raised questions from teachers and students who question the rationale behind the proposal.

Annika Wall, an instructor for an intensive SFI course directed at college graduates, said that very few students have the ability to complete all SFI courses within a year, and those who do are motivated by other things than getting a few thousand kronor.

“They only thing they want is to get a job and start a life here,” Wall told DN.

“As I see things, this doesn’t solve any problems. Those who have difficulties and struggle for years aren’t going to be helped by the smartest students getting money.”

According to Wall, a better proposal would be to use the bonus money to arrange traineeships for new immigrants.

Madeleine Edström, a vice principal for SFI in Stockholm, is also concerned the bonus programme will lead to unnecessary divisions among students.

“There is a great risk that this will create an awkward environment and I know that many teachers are feeling pressure and expressing doubts. They have power over who will get money and who won’t, and that’s not a pleasant situation,” she said.

Even the students who are supposed to benefit from the SFI bonus have reservations.

“It won’t be fair. There are those who study as hard as they can, but they still don’t pass,” said SFI student Moshen Kiaei to DN.

Fellow student Abbas Blash added that money isn’t the key to learning Swedish.

“The only way to really learn Swedish is to go out with Swedes. And that’s something you can’t buy with money,” he said.

Stockholm’s Social Welfare and Labour Division (Socialtjänst- och arbetsmarknadsnämnden) is expected to decide on Thursday whether or not Stockholm should participate in the SFI bonus pilot programme.

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