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'Tailor Swedish classes to newcomers' needs'

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'Tailor Swedish classes to newcomers' needs'
11:15 CET+01:00
With one in four Swedish language students dropping out of the state-run classes, three Liberal Party ministers argued on Thursday that the system is not helping newcomers integrate and needs a work-focused overhaul.

"Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) doesn't work well and should be fundamentally changed," wrote Education Minister Jan Björklund, Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag, and the new Equality Minister Maria Arnholm in an opinion piece published by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper (DN) on Thursday.

"We have to focus more on individual needs and make clearer the connection to employment."

With a quarter of enrolled students dropping out before their course has finished, and inconsistent teaching quality nationwide, the politicians want the classes to tie in with the Swedish Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen).

They suggest newly-arrived immigrants could pick up the Swedish language much faster in the work place rather than in the classroom.

In 2011, over 100,000 students took SFI classes and more than 40,000 studied at municipal adult education programmes (Komvux). Many of these students are highly educated, while others are illiterate.

To combat these students' problems with finding work after SFI, the ministers proposed three steps to improve the integration process.

Firstly, they argued that SFI should have a clear connection to work or internship opportunities. They proposed newcomers meet at an early stage with Arbetsförmedlingen staff to discuss finding work.

Secondly, the ministers proposed more flexibility in teaching based on individual students' needs and capabilities. Tailoring courses to fit what job the student will be looking for could also be helpful, they suggested.

Thirdly, they proposed that the Swedish language system be harmonized nationwide.

They said an inquiry would determine whether to abolish the SFI system, and instead transfer all language courses to Komvux.

"Knowledge of Swedish is essential... Unfortunately, too many people who've come to Sweden have poor language skills mainly because SFI hasn't worked well enough," they wrote.

TT/The Local/og

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