Sweden to keep immigrant kids in school

The government wants to make sure young immigrants keep up their studies by legally requiring them to stay in school until they reach 18, while also pumping funds into Swedish-language courses.

Sweden to keep immigrant kids in school

Education and Integration Ministers Jan Björklund and Erik Ullenhag proposed on Thursday that children who are older than twelve when they arrive in Sweden should have to keep studying until they are 18.

At present, Swedish children are bound by law to go to school until the year they turn 16, in practice finishing compulsory education. Attending high school is optional.

Björklund first hinted at lengthening compulsory schooling for newly-arrived children last autumn, as the government presented its annual budget.

At the time, he said that foreign-born children’s academic performance had deteriorated in recent years, partly due to the surge of underage asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Somalia, whose education levels had suffered due to years of wars.

In addition, immigrant children were generally older than their Swedish-born peers when they enrolled in school in Sweden.

A proposed 30 million kronor ($4.7 million) per year would add three more hours of Swedish-language instruction per week for the first four terms that the children are enrolled in school.

The proposal also called for newly arrived children to start studying as soon as possible, rather than languishing in orientation courses that can stretch up to one year.

Björklund estimated that the changes would affect around 3,000 students in every grade.

TT/The Local/dl

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Distance learning remains a ‘possibility’ for Swedish schools: Education minister

Remote learning remains a possibility, but not an obligation, for schools in Sweden as students around the country begin term this week, the Education Minister said on Wednesday.

Distance learning remains a 'possibility' for Swedish schools: Education minister
Education Minister Anna Ekström (L) and general director of the Schools Inspectorate, Helén Ängmo. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Minister Anna Ekström made the comments during a press conference in which she outlined the rules ahead of back-to-school season but did not make any new announcements.

She urged schools to be “flexible”, outlining some of the measures which have been recommended by the National Board of Education since an early stage in the pandemic.

This include changing furniture arrangements to promote distancing, staggering lesson and break times to prevent students mixing in large groups, and increasing cleaning. Many parent-teacher meetings are likely to be cancelled, she said.

Schools for under-16s have remained open throughout the pandemic, and Ekström said this decision was based on research showing children were affected by the virus to a lesser extent. “The younger the child, the more mild the symptoms,” she said.

In Sweden, only one of the almost 6,000 people to have died after testing positive for the coronavirus was aged under 10, and none of the victims have been in the 10-19 age group.

Ekström added that no occupational group linked to schools had been over-represented in Sweden's coronavirus statistics.

In addition to taking this kind of measures, heads of schools have also been given additional decision-making powers.

These include the ability to switch to remote learning, or make other changes such as adapting the timetable (including moving lessons to weekends) if necessary due to the infection situation. 

“If the situation gets worse, teaching can be moved partially or entirely to distance learning. This could happen in the whole country, individual schools, or in municipalities or regions where schools may need to close as a measure to prevent spread of infection,” Ekström said.

“The government is prepared to take measures, but we don't want to close schools.”