REPORT: Majority of Swedish for Immigrants classes have 'clear quality issues'

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
REPORT: Majority of Swedish for Immigrants classes have 'clear quality issues'
Students at an SFI class in Stockholm learn Swedish by watching and discussing Swedish films. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Four out of five providers of Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) classes have clear quality issues, a new report from Sweden's schools watchdog has found, with schools failing to help students practice spoken Swedish or adapt material to individual needs.


The report, by Skolverket, the Swedish National Agency for Education, found that the quality of teaching across different SFI providers differed greatly, with only six of the 30 providers the agency investigated providing good quality teaching. All of the other 24 providers had issues, with three of them displaying serious failings. 

In the report, Skolverket looked into both distance learning and on-site classes, finding that students in distance classes in particular rarely had the chance to practice speaking Swedish.

"If students at SFI do not have enough of a chance to speak Swedish, the barrier for them to enter into society and the labour market is raised," the agency's director-general, Helén Ängmo, wrote.

"Many contacts in society rely on being able to participate in dialogue, with healthcare, agencies or schools. It is worrying that we're still seeing many clear issues with the quality of SFI, for example with distance classes and with the level to which they are adapted to individuals."

Despite the fact that online classes often allow teachers to adapt the course material to students' abilities to a greater degree, they are in general less varied, as students are often required to do more work at home by themselves with less chance of practicing speech and writing skills together with other students.

Another common issue was the fact that many providers don't offer students a chance to practice Swedish used in everyday situations, with many students wanting to learn how to hold conversations with people and communicate with governmental agencies and authorities.


At one SFI provider, students told inspectors at Skolverket that they were still unable to communicate with staff at the supermarket, for example, despite having studied SFI for a relatively long time.

Other students felt that they had had to learn from their own children how to communicate with staff at their children's school or preschool, with this subject matter lacking in their SFI studies.

Students who already had better Swedish skills were often not challenged enough in class, and the opportunities for students to influence teaching were low.

In the providers where teachers more often tailored classes to students' interests, experience or goals, students were more likely to work with examples from their everyday lives, such as healthcare workers practicing language used in the healthcare sector, help with language used when collecting children at school or how to fill in different types of forms.

In these classes, the report reads, teachers were more likely to adapt and target exercises to individual students or groups of students, when relevant.

Another aspect which affected the quality of teaching was teachers' expectations of their work. In classes where teachers felt there was a lack of assistance from school leadership, a lack of opportunity for teachers to work together with other teachers, or where they felt not enough time was dedicated to contact between teachers and students in online courses, the quality of teaching was more likely to be worse.


In order to fix these issues, the agency wrote, teachers need better support in developing and adapting teaching to individual students. Only 55 percent of SFI teachers in the 2022/23 academic year had a teaching qualification to teach SFI at adult level for that year, which, the agency writes is "not enough".

Online classes have potential, it wrote, but need to be developed, as they offer the chance for students to combine studies with their work lives or parental leave, for example. However, it said, these students should have equal opportunity to develop their Swedish communication skills than students participating in classes in person.

The agency stressed the importance of SFI for Sweden as a country. 

"Getting the opportunity to learn Swedish to communicate in everyday life, the community, the workplace and in studies is important for students who do not have Swedish as their native language," the agency wrote in a press release. "That is why municipal-run Swedish for Immigrants classes for adults play an important role."


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Simeon 2023/05/26 11:42
I definitely agree with everything in this post. I left SFI before writing my level D exam and at this point, lessons were so repeated and the chances of learning new things reduced so so much. It was more annoying as the class was 4hrs Mon- Friday and it took 1hr to get to. However, SFI is still a very good intro but a lot of work relies on the student also.

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