SFI reform ‘threatens’ educated migrants: union

Swedish academics have warned the government that a cap on funding for Swedish for Immigrants classes would threaten vocational language courses for highly-educated migrants such as engineers and lawyers.

SFI reform 'threatens' educated migrants: union
File photo: Therese Jahnson/TT

The Swedish union that represents employees and job seekers with higher education on Friday warned that a reform including a cap would make it difficult for new arrivals to Sweden to access specialized language courses.

The vocational programmes allow access for immigrants with specialist knowledge to an accelerated learning platform, including field-specific lingo, which had in many cases opened doors to the Swedish labour market, Saco noted.

"It's been a successful initiative and this proposal threatens it," Saco researcher Josefin Edström told The Local.

The dilemma, however, is that vocational language courses cost more than the run-of-the-mill SFI classes that focus only on language. Capping the cost per student would risk not covering the cost of the specialized programmes, Saco warned.

The idea being floated by the government, if passed, would introduce free-market principals to the Swedish for Immigrants landscape. It would define a set amount of money that each student has access to, and which they could use as they see fit. The aim of the change is to shore up the quality of teaching.

The "SFI-peng" would work in a similar way to Swedish children and teenagers who have a "skolpeng", allowing them to shop around for the best schools.

Yet where most school children can turn to their parents for guidance and already know the language, Saco noted that many people who have just arrived in Sweden do not have enough insight into their new country's system to make informed decisions.

"Sometimes you get very good guidance, while others have to fight their way through. We've heard of people who at random find out there is a class," Edström said.

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