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.