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Panel discussion with State Secretary

Posted 2017-01-27 By Tony Pedersen

Recently, I attended a seminar organized by The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in which we discussed effective language training for enabling immigrants to enter the job market.

In short, the following challenges covered:

• SFI (Swedish for immigrants) is a national education system working at the municipal level to provide language training for new arrivals. The problem is that the training differs greatly in quality depending on who/where the education is carried out. Quality assurance is inadequate.

• SFI is inflexible and the training is not sufficient. This is partly because only 30% of teachers within SFI have the right teaching qualifications and SFI has tripled in volume over the last 10 years; the system does not have enough resources to handle this. It is important to point out that municipalities are responsible for SFI, not the state.

• Municipalities don't have enough resources to properly quality assure the procurement of SFI. This leads to programs that don't always meet standards.

• Focus on women, three times more men go out to work than women of those who emigrate to Sweden.

We at tretton37 and other employers in Sweden recruiting from the global labor market have experienced that SFI is unsatisfactory when our new employees begin their municipal sponsored language training. Two major problems that we perceive in the education system are as follows:

Panel discussion

Too large of differences in skill levels

SFI is divided into four categories, A through D, where A is for students with little or no reading and writing comprehension and where D is for students who are capable of learning Swedish more quickly. Much of the talent we recruit have some form of higher education, such as a university degree. In those cases they are automatically placed in category C when they start SFI.

The reasoning behind this is that if you have a degree of any kind, you have experience studying and thus you'll have an easier time handling language taught in SFI. The problem is that often education levels is not an accurate predictor of ones language learning abilities. The current knowledge of C level students varies too much.

There are students who have studied Swedish for over a year and the focus is on constructing sentences. Even if you have an academic background and you have studying experience, you need to start at a basic level by learning vowels, letters, numbers, colors, etc., which is not done at the C level.

Lack of flexibility in the system

Students find it bureaucratic and difficult to switch between the different categories so that the education can match their pace. They often feel that they are rushed through the system and that emphasis is placed on taking the exam rather than ensuring they have a strong grasp of Swedish.

Suggested Improvements

• Establish a national individual training allowance for SFI students
Increase flexibility in letting students be able to choose which language provider they want, rather than always having to use the municipality's contracted suppliers. Let the students get their own education allowance in order to choose courses that suit their needs. Employers within the municipality should act as advisors and informers.

• Increase flexibility in the existing SFI
Give students more freedom to choose what level they want to start at and make it easier to later change. Having an academic degree does not mean you already know the Swedish alphabet when you arrive in Sweden.

We have a vision to "Become the Most Admired company", let us have that same vision for Sweden. Together we can work to provide the best conditions possible for everyone who has chosen to start a new life here, starting with the language.

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