Swedish for Immigrants to undergo overhaul

Swedish for Immigrants to undergo overhaul
Sweden's ministers for education and integration have announced far-reaching plans to improve the quality of language courses offered to immigrants.

Writing in Monday’s Dagens Nyheter, Education Minister Jan Björklund and Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni outline a seven-step programme designed to demand more of both language learners and course providers.

“Alarming” deficiencies in the current Svenska för Invandrare (Swedish for Immigrants – SFI) system seriously hinder the job prospects of new arrivals, the ministers write.

“It is also entirely possible to use SFI as a form of income year after year, without actually gaining any language skills or producing any results,” they add.

The ministers further note that nine out of ten SFI teachers lack the relevant qualifications in Swedish as a Second Language, while a vague curriculum containing abstract goals makes it impossible for students to know what is expected of them.

In order to improve the standard of education offered, the ministers highlight seven areas that need to be improved:

First of all, compulsory national testing is to be introduced from January 1st 2009 for all SFI courses.

“The tests will form the basis for a course diploma and will increase equivalence across the country when it comes to results and assessment,” the ministers write.

The SFI curriculum, currently “too abstract”, will be redesigned to include clearly stated goals.

A time limit of three years is to be placed on completion of SFI studies. Unless there are valid reasons, such as sickness or parental leave, students who fail to meet this deadline will be moved on to adult education courses outside of the SFI system.

A performance-related bonus is to be introduced for students who manage to successfully complete their studies within a specific time frame.

The entire SFI system is to undergo an evaluation, “focusing on participants’ results, teachers’ competence and how the municipalities organize the education.”

The government is to set aside 61 million kronor until 2010 to ensure that SFI teachers are better qualified to help their students learn Swedish.

The two ministers conclude their article with an open jab at the opposition.

“The fact that the Alliance government has had record success when it comes to creating jobs for immigrants just puts the extent of the Social Democrats’ failure in perspective. Mona Sahlin bears a great deal of personal responsibility, particularly after her tenure as integration minister,” write Björklund and Sabuni.