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INTEGRATION

Sweden best at integration: study

Sweden is the better at managing integration than other European countries, the United States, and Canada, according to a study published on Monday by the British Council and the Migration Policy Group.

Sweden’s score of 83 gave it the highest rank among countries included in the study. Portugal ranked second with a score of 79, followed by Canada (72).

Neighbouring Finland claimed the number 4 spot (69), with Norway coming in seventh (66) and Denmark trailing its Scandinavian neighbours in 14th place (53).

According to the index, derived from an analysis of 148 different factors, Swedish integration policies offer favourable conditions for migrants to participate in society, including finding employment.

Also highlighted as strengths were Swedish laws pertaining to family reunification and anti-discrimination, while laws related to housing, education, political participation and citizenship were considered no less advantageous.

Henrik Nilsson, a start-up coordinator and member of the Red Cross, Sweden’s national partner to the study, attributed much of Sweden’s high ranking to the right mix of policies and willing volunteers.

“Sweden’s first place shows that good forces can combine to produce results. We have a Parliament that passes laws giving newcomers the right to instruction in Swedish…and thousands of volunteers who support new arrivals when they enter into Swedish society,” Nilsson said in a statement.

“At the same time there is much we can do better in the practical work at the local, regional and national level in terms, such as health.”

The long-term study, known at MIPEX, puts Sweden’s ability to deal with the challenges of integration above efforts in place in all other European Union (EU) member states, Norway, Switzerland, Canada and the US.

A collaborative effort between the British Council, the Migration Policy Group and national partners, the MIPEX study compares and contrasts integration policies across 31 countries in Europe and North America, surveying what various governments are doing to promote integration of immigrants and refugees with residence permits.

For the purposes of the study, immigrants are defined as non-EU nationals who enter their countries of destination legally. Asylum seekers, refugees, the undocumented, and intra-EU migrants and people will immigrant backgrounds who haven’t themselves immigrated are therefore not included in the analysis.

MIPEX also benchmarks whether governments grant equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for all residents according to international standards agreed upon by EU member states.

“While change is happening at a very slow pace, there are still many obstacles to how immigrants live, work and participate in our societies,” the British Council said in a statement.

The findings revealed that great disparities exist in how Europe is integrating its 20 million immigrants who legally reside in the region.

“Most countries are creating as many opportunities as obstacles for immigrants to become equal members of society,” the British independent government agency said in the same statement.

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EDUCATION

Sweden considers expanding mother tongue education

More students should study their mother tongue in Swedish schools, according to a proposal delivered to the government.

Sweden considers expanding mother tongue education
File photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT
Students in Swedish schools who have a parent or legal guardian whose native language is something other than Swedish are offered courses to help them strengthen their skills in the other language. 
 
Roughly 280,000 students are eligible for this education but only approximately 170,000 are actively participating in the courses. 
 
According to Nihad Bunar, a professor of youth studies at Stockholm University who has been appointed by the government to address this issue, part of the reason the participation is so low is that the mother tongue courses are often held at the conclusion of the regular school day. 
 
“The consequences of this are obvious: tired students who have competing free-time activities. There is also a general perception that the subject is not as important as other school subjects,” Bunar said. 
 
Additionally, schools are not required to offer mother tongue classes if there are fewer than five students who would participate in the classes. 
 

 

 
A commission report that has been submitted to the government calls for making mother tongue education a more integrated part of the school day and offering it to smaller groups. The report also suggests offering the classes via remote learning, as a lack of qualified teachers in other languages is also a significant problem. 
 
The report points out that students who are given the opportunity to develop their mother tongue also tend to develop better Swedish language skills and perform better in school all-around. 
 
Education Minister Gustav Fridolin welcomed the report’s recommendations. 
 
“Studying one’s mother tongue can strengthen learning in all students. Therefore, more students should receive mother tongue education and the quality of the education and the curriculum should be strengthened,” he said in a government press release. 
 
The largest languages in mother tongue education in Sweden are Arabic, Somali, English, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Persian, Kurdish, Spanish, Finnish, Albanian and Polish.
 
The Local would like to hear from parents whose children are involved in a mother tongue programme at their local school. Please get in touch with us at [email protected] if you’d like to participate in a follow-up article. 
 
The recommendations on mother tongue education come just a few months after a report carried out by OECD at the request of the Swedish government, suggested that Sweden can and must do much more to help immigrant children perform better at school
 
That study noted that 61 percent of first-generation immigrant students do “not attain baseline academic proficiency”. The number decreases to 43 percent for second-generation immigrant students and that 19 percent differential is well above the OECD average of 11 percents. 
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