• Sweden's news in English
How immigration is putting Swedish schools to the test
A Swedish classroom. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

How immigration is putting Swedish schools to the test

AFP/The Local · 27 Apr 2016, 08:13

Published: 27 Apr 2016 08:13 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Of the roughly 245,000 migrants who have arrived in the Scandinavian country since 2014, 70,000 are under the age of 18, according to figures quoted by the AFP news agency on Wednesday.

The majority of these youngsters are Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis who have been robbed of a proper schooling by war and exile.

“It's a real challenge,” Education Minister Gustav Fridolin said in an interview with AFP.

The Swedish school system already faces major challenges including an acute shortage of qualified teachers – 60,000 more are needed by 2019 – and declining scores in standardized international tests. The quality of education can also vary significantly from school to school.

A Unicef report published in April showed that Sweden, along with neighbouring Finland, is the country where school results declined the most between 2006 and 2012.

The Swedish National Agency for Education blames the decline in school performance on the large number of foreign students who they say drag down results because of language issues.

In 2014, 14 percent of students had results too low to qualify for the second part of secondary school (for pupils aged 16 to 18), a 10 percent deterioration on the 2006 level.

The lower level of pupils qualifying for further education was due to the rising number of students who migrated to Sweden after school starting age, who struggled to catch up as a result, according to the report.

Fridolin said that it is “much more costly” for society to pay for a school system that has failed migrants than it is to give them a good education in the first place.

Foreign-born pupils are struggling in Swedish schools. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

In the Södertälje municipality south of Stockholm, 37 percent of residents are born abroad. Three years ago, authorities decided to assign two teachers to each primary school class to ensure students got the attention they needed.

“The students get more help, the classes can be adapted to their needs and the teachers feel less stressed,” said Södertälje's head of schoos, Monica Sonde.

The gamble seems to be paying off, with the number of students qualifying for upper secondary school on the rise.

At the Wasa primary and middle school, 90 percent of students speak Arabic and almost one in five pupils arrived in Sweden in the past two years.

But Mark Khoazzoum, an 11-year-old whose father was a doctor in Aleppo, Syria, needed just three months in an adaptation class before he was ready to move into regular lessons.

Story continues below…

He now speaks good Swedish. But the language “is still an obstacle when I want to describe things”, he said.

The scale of the challenges facing new immigrants varies depending on their country of origin.

“Syria has a pretty adequate school system while countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia have very weak school systems, which means that students from these countries may not have attended school before arriving in Sweden,” said Anders Auer, a policy analyst at the country's education agency.

Newly-arrived children are usually placed in adaptation classes where they learn Swedish, their knowledge levels are tested and they receive schooling in their mother tongue. Within two years, they are expected to have caught up enough to be able to enter the regular curriculum.

They usually face hurdles all the way through their education, but “in our statistics, we have noted that the foreign students are more motivated than those born Sweden”, said Auer. But he added: “Even though they're motivated they have a hard time.”

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Malmö's 19th Swedish title sets Champions hopes alight
Malmö fans celebrating after the match. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

Malmö FF have their eyes set on the Champions League after winning the Swedish league for the 19th year.

What's on in Sweden
Five great autumn events in Sweden this week
Jazz in northern Sweden. Photo: Umeå Jazz Festival

Food, music, movies and more food. What better way of helping yourself forget that the days are getting shorter and colder?

Here's how slow Sweden's high-speed trains are getting
A Swedish SJX2000 high speed train. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

The high-speed rail journey between the three biggest Swedish cities is about to get longer.

The Local List
12 Swedish words with just awesome literal translations
A filthy-minded lobster, i.e. a snuskhummer. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

One of our favourite things about the Swedish language is its wonderful compound words, which range from being utterly bizarre to making perfect sense.

US election
Donald Trump won't get new Ericsson head's vote
Trump pictured at a campaign rally in Florida. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

The new Swedish-American boss of telecoms giant Ericsson has revealed he will not vote for the Republican nominee in the forthcoming US presidential election.

Swedes named fourth most gender equal in the world
A file photo of men and women pushing prams in Stockholm. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Sweden has closed 81 percent of its overall gender gap according to the World Economic Forum.

Sweden: Russian warships in the Baltic 'worrying'
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Two Russian warships equipped with long-range missiles have entered the Baltic Sea after passing Denmark.

Why businesses are worried about Sweden's drone ban
A drone filming in Stockholm. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The Local investigates what Sweden's new drone ban could mean for businesses in the country.

This is the new top boss of Swedish Ericsson
Börje Ekholm. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Telecoms giant Ericsson has appointed a new CEO after a turbulent year for the company.

These are Sweden's best universities: ranking
A new university ranking has been released. Photo: Cecilia Larsson Lantz/Imagebank.sweden.se

At least according to this global ranking, which picks 12 Swedish universities among the top-1000.

Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Is Game of Thrones coming to Sweden?
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available