In the Road to Community series, Swedish Press uncovers the landscape of refugee integration into Swedish society by exploring governmental policies, non-governmental initiatives, and revealing individual stories.
Svenska för InvandrareBy Caitlyn Lee
Integrating as a newcomer in a foreign country is not an easy task, especially without know-ledge of the local language. Svenska för Invandrare (Swedish for Immigrants or SFI), is a government-funded program that helps relieve this difficulty. After registering with a Swedish personal number, newcomers to Sweden can take language courses through SFI. The program is offered in collaboration with Arbetsförmedlingen, Sweden’s national employment agency, to help newcomers adjust socially and economically into Swedish life. Newcomers can take lessons while waiting for job and internship opportunities from Arbetsförmedlingen. During this time they are given classes in civics and Swedish society in the hopes of identifying and reducing the potential confusion that cultural differences can lead to.
Vocational training is also offered to refugees by SFI. Students can study Swedish, while completing courses in carpentry, cooking, mechanics, etc. This is entirely paid for by the government, which allows newcomers to develop a trade with fewer monetary pressures at home. SFI’s resources help students plan future goals by assisting with post secondary school applications, resumé building, and career guidance. To foster student bonding and encourage curiosity in Swedish culture, field trips are organized throughout each semester.
Due to increasing numbers of newcomers into Sweden, SFI is expecting a large wave of enrollment. Johan Roos, head of adult education for Gothenburg city, said the Swedish migration agency can take up to two years to process each incoming asylum seeker or migrant. Unfortunately, until they are processed and given residency, SFI and Arbetsförmedlingen are unauthorized to offer their resources. There are currently 125,000 SFI students in all of Sweden; that number is projected to grow to 250,000 in 2019.
If numbers do increase as expected, SFI will have a difficult time coping due to a lack of teachers and space for students. In a conversation with Swedish Press, Aida Hadzialic, Sweden’s Minister for Upper Secondary School and Adult Education and Training, explained that Sweden will need to double the number of teachers they have now in order to handle the high enrollment rate, “Sweden is trying to make professional SFI teaching more appealing by creating a better work environment and reducing the administrative burden for teachers. It is also important for teachers to afford proper training in SFI education; therefore, the government offers economic benefits for those who wish to study.”
SFI has done a significant job in teaching newcomers about Swedish language and society. Newcomers to Sweden are given the chance to excel in a new culture and society with the remarkable financial support from the government. As we move further into the year, it will be interesting to observe how SFI and the Swedish government will manage the surge in enrollment.