On the frontline of integration: how Swedish schools are helping refugees

Jun 26, 2016 by

Educators are trialling a range of initiatives to ensure newly arrived children do not fall through the gaps and all schools bear the pressure equally

Botkyrka, a municipality just south of Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, is full of contrasts. The massive apartment complexes in the area’s northern suburbs, where most refugees and migrants settle, are a far cry from the airy wooden villas just 15 minutes away. The area’s schools are similarly divided; while some teach large numbers of children from non-Swedish backgrounds, others have few or none in their classes.

This contrast is becoming more stark. Of roughly 163,000 migrants who applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015, more than 70,000 of them were children. Half of those children arrived in the country alone. Swedish law stipulates that refugee children should be offered a school placement within a month of arriving – so far just 4% of schools have taken a third of the newly arrived pupils. It is feared that with some schools taking more of the strain than others, young people in the country are becoming segregated.

Some believe bussing children to schools in different areas in the region could be the answer. Not only does it help to spread the pressure on schools, but it also supports parents and children when looking for a place. Several municipalities now offer dedicated buses or free public transport passes to encourage newly arrived pupils to attend a wider range of schools.

Falkbergsskolan, a popular state school, is taking part in such a scheme. In the past, nearly all pupils at the school had Swedish as their mother tongue. But just over three years ago, the school set up a preparatory class specifically for refugees, taught in both Swedish and Arabic. The class currently has 12 pupils, all from Syria. They stay in the class for up to three terms and enter mainstream classes once their Swedish is good enough.

Source: On the frontline of integration: how Swedish schools are helping refugees | Teacher Network | The Guardian

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