‘Immigrant kids need more schooling’: Sweden

'Immigrant kids need more schooling': Sweden
The Swedish government has revealed a new directive aimed at improving immigrant students’ education and integration into Sweden, revolving around longer compulsory schooling and a shift in lesson priorities.

In a statement released on Tuesday by the Government Offices of Sweden (Regeringkansliet), Jan Björklund, the Minister for Education and Erik Ullenhag, the Minister for Integration, revealed plans to attack issues facing the 70,000 foreign-born students in Swedish schools.

Björklund pointed out that it is ”unfair” that students who have recently arrived to Sweden are being compared and rated against Swedish students.

“If you write a national exam after just a few years in a Swedish school, it’s obvious that you won’t pass,” Björklund told the TT news agency.

The government also intends to remove the students who have lived in Sweden for four years or less from the grading statistics.

”It’s not reasonable to evaluate the performance of a school based on how many of the foreign-born students have reached the objectives in Swedish. After a few years, it’s reasonable that they pass, but not from the beginning,” Björklund told TT.

Key issues regarding these foreign students, who make up nine percent of Sweden’s primary school student population, revolved around how to integrate the children and raise the quality of their education by considering lesson priorities and additional compulsory schooling.

“For recently arrived children, schooling is the key to integration. Students today are older when they come to Sweden. It puts greater demands on the Swedish schools that receive them,” wrote the government in the statement.

Only 63 percent of the foreign-born students passed their final high school exams in 2010, a trend the government indicated is worsening.

The government highlights that more children are coming from different countries today than in past years, and that the age at arrival in Sweden has become older.

Foreign-born students in the ninth grade today have, on average, been in Sweden for 4.5 years. In 2001, the corresponding figure was six years.

To combat these growing trends, Tuesday’s reform packet highlighted that integration will be aided from an earlier stage.

Students will be tested upon arrival, whereas students are currently put into schools based purely on their age, with no consideration of their abilities.

Furthermore, the children’s knowledge of the Swedish language will be measured regularly during their first years at school.

Foreign-born students may be kept in school until they are 18, with more lessons given when needed.

There is also an intended reshuffling of priorities in terms of subjects learnt. For example, Swedish could be placed as a priority for students without a solid grasp of the language.

The plans are intended to come into effect by 31st December this year at the latest, following a review by a government commission.

Other measures planned by the government include an increased concentration on pre-schools.

Nearly one in five students speaks a language beside Swedish at home, and the government intends to increase the teachers’ knowledge of language developments. This is planned to come into total effect by the 15th of February, 2013.

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