MobileBE - Examples of good practice (IO-1) - Example SE04
Swedish for immigrants: the practical and cultural way
With a high number of immigrants from very different cultural contexts during recent years, there is also a need for courses in Swedish with a focus on society and culture. And since we as individuals differ a lot when it comes to preferred learning styles, there is also a great need for courses that are not only theoretical, but include practical methods and the arts.
The main goal after having finished our courses is to be able to make oneself understood in everyday situations, and there should be no need for an interpreter when for example in contact with the authorities. The level of language should also be enough to get and keep a job, and being able to have a good communication with an employer and rest of staff.
Our courses combine traditional teachings in the classroom with practical tasks, external lecturers, study visits and discussions. There is normally a new theme every week where society and culture are in focus; the rules and regulations of the labor market or personal economy with budgets, loans and interest is the next week varied with teaching Swedish through translating and discussing song lyrics which then can be sung by the whole group. Dancing and painting can also open up new doors to the language and the new culture, and leaving school for a visit to the lake to try skating or water sports add color and joy. Since this is a holistic way of learning, not normally offered to this target group by other school forms, it makes our kind of school rather unique – a folk high school with teachers that have various backgrounds, views and ways of teaching.
Target group, recruitment, motivation
The students are recruited through the employment agency or apply themselves, and are in general quite motivated to learn the new language. If not, and if they have difficulties focusing on the course, it usually depends on the situation in their home countries where family and friends can still be in danger because of conflict and war. We usually solve this with strong support from a mentor, but sometimes it can be a good idea to take a break from the course and return at a better point in time.
We have about 230 students, divided into the more basic Establishment (80) where your start if you are illiterate and/or have no schooling from your home country, and Swedish for Immigrants (150) where there are four levels and the top level is equivalent to having finished upper primary level in the Swedish school system. The typical participant is between 18 and up above retirement age, Arabic speaking and originally from Syria. This year we happen to have more men than women at the course, but this can vary a lot.
Individual mapping takes place right from the start, and there are standardized tests to decide which level is the most suitable for each individual.
Validation of learning outcomes
There are national tests at each level that everyone has to pass before entering the next level and get their certificate at the end. Due to differences in general linguistic competence and motivation, the time needed to accomplish the final certificate can vary a great deal.
Effects – short term/long term
The most obvious results are the illiterate students who with our individually adapted exercises, including intense work with sounds and connecting words with pictures (a combination of top-down and bottom-up theory), manage to crack the code of reading in a month or two – this is something we see quite often and are truly proud of doing. As a whole, we give these new citizens a variety of input and the opportunity to learn in a way that fits them the best, which makes the studies motivating and efficient and a good base for future work and life in Sweden.
Måna Nilsdotter, 2018-02-28