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Swedish Second Language for Immigrant Students: Slow Lane or Fast Track Forward?
Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, School Based Research, Media, Literature and Language Didactics. Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, School Based Research, Literacy Research. Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, School Based Research, Other School Based Research.
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The paper reports on teacher and pupil interviews from a case study of a primary school in a highly diverse Swedish urban neighbourhood. It discusses some of the consequences of dividing the school subject Swedish into two separate syllabi (Swedish and Swedish as a Second Language, respectively), both with respect to inclusion and language development opportunities. Implications for teacher training programmes are considered.

The study examines how primary school teachers teaching Swedish as a Second Language (SSL) and/or Swedish differentiate between these subjects. It looks at how they express their understanding of differences or similarities between aims, methods and teaching approaches, with respect to the needs of their pupils. Tensions and paradoxes are considered, between the ambition to provide equally valid instruction to all pupils, on the one hand, and the segregating mechanisms of distinct subject tracks, on the other. The discussion is placed in the wider theoretical framework of inclusive education (Persson, 2012), and intercultural school development (Lahdenperä, 1998, 2008), as well as drawing on research on Swedish language teaching for immigrants (Fridlund, 2011; Torpsten, 2008; Stroud, 2004).

In a European perspective, improving education provisions for students with a migrant background is a central concern, aiming to support integration and ensure social cohesion (OECD, 2010; Sirius Literature Review). Migrants are far from being a homogenous group, however. Immigrant communities comprise second or third generation immigrants as well as newly arrived families and refugees, with a very wide range of socio-economic backgrounds and educational needs.

Several European studies stress that language support is a strategic aspect which impacts migrants’ access to education and the effects of language proficiency on school performance are often underlined. Sweden has been mentioned as a positive example with respect to language support, for providing SSL classes (Sirius Literature Review). Other language-oriented support measures in Sweden include mother tongue instruction and study guidance in the mother tongue (OECD, 2009; Bunar, 2010).

SSL is taught to newly arrived immigrant students, but also offered as a school subject in mainstream school. The intention of placing newly arrived students in mainstream classes at a relatively early stage is to allow them to benefit from contact with native speakers of Swedish. At same time it is thought that Swedish classes adapted for second language learners will better support their language development.

In practice, there are numerous problems connected to SSL teaching in mainstream classes (Fridlund, 2011; Skolverket, 2008; Torpsten, 2008). Parents and students are reluctant to choose this option, since it is perceived to provide inferior teaching and is felt to not be equally valuable as a qualification. Officially, the two subjects are supposed to be equivalent, and there are only minimal differences the learning objectives and assessment criteria for exams.

Not just new arrivals, but all students with some form of migrant background and/or all ’multilingual’ students (speaking other home languages besides Swedish) are categorised as non-native speakers of Swedish. Consequently, such students are often directed to SSL. The final decision of whether a student takes Swedish or SSL rests with the school, not the parents.

Since December 2013, year 1-6 teachers teachers are required to have at least some qualification in Swedish or Swedish as a Second Language in order to teach SSL (www.andrasprak.su.se). Nevertheless, these requirements are minimal (half a term’s training for years 1-3 and one term for years 3-6) and hardly provide an adequate base, considering the challenges involved.

Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources UsedThe study is part of a larger case study of a primary school in a highly diverse urban neighbourhood, examining conditions for intercultural organisational development (Lahdenperä, 2008). Case methodology (Stake, 1995) is used. At this school, there were too few pupils taking the subject Swedish to organise separate classes, so the two subjects Swedish and SSL were taught in mixed classes. Interviews were conducted with six randomly selected teachers (teaching years 2, 4 and 6), teaching Swedish as a Second Language and/or Swedish. The interviews were analysed with respect to how differences and similarities between the two school subjects were described by the teachers. Additionally, attention was paid to how they explained the different or similar teaching approaches that they adopted, and how they related this to their perceptions of pupils’ needs (cf. Lahdenperä, 1998). The term migrant background is in certain European contexts used  for foreign-born students only. In Sweden, the definition used for statistical purposes since 2002 also covers cases where both parents were born abroad. In daily usage, however, the term covers any migrant origin several generations back. The term multilingual (flerspråkig) is also used in Sweden to refer to immigrant communities in a wide sense. Such categorisations have consequences for language support measures and for which track of Swedish pupils are directed towards (Bunar, 2010; Stroud, 2004). Particular attention was therefore paid in the analysis to how categorising terms were used by the teachers. Attention was also devoted to teachers' conceptions of language (marker of identity or skill), and which specific linguistic features and/or competencies the teachers considered to be relevant in the school context. Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or FindingsPreliminary findings suggest interviewed teachers were unsure of the purpose of distinguishing between the subjects Swedish and Swedish as a Second Language, which teaching approaches would be suitable, and which criteria should be applied to direct pupils towards one subject or the other. Several of the underlying contradictions in policy aims and the syllabus for the two subjects could be noticed in the teachers’ descriptions. Contradictions were particularly apparent in how some pupils born in Sweden were categorised as native speakers of Swedish, while others were not. The teachers generally expressed simplified ideas about needs of second language learners. For pupils who were categorised as SSL learners, focus in teaching was placed on on word comprehension, not on higher skills. Pupils categorised as native speakers were perceived to be in need of more challenging approaches, with support of written syntax and structure of texts, enriching variety in expression. The low level of the majority of pupils was felt to be problematic for the stronger pupils, since it was difficult to find time for more interesting activities. Perceptions of pupils’ linguistic proficiency tended to be based on characteristics such as pronunciation (cf. Boyd, 2003; Stroud, 2004), and knowledge of Swedish traditional childrens’ culture. If Swedish language support measures are to be used as a model for other European countries’ efforts, sufficient attention needs to be devoted to the potentially segregating and stigmatising effects of targeted support measures. Adequate teacher training is critical. Conflating different kinds of language skills into an overall notion of language proficiency does not give teachers sufficient guidance for  language development efforts. Similarly, the theoretical conceptualisation of learning processes as divided into mutally exclusive categories applicable for L1 and L2 learners does not appear to help teachers find effective teaching strategies for these highly diverse groups of students.   References

Boyd, S. (2003). Foreign-born Teachers in the Multilingual Classroom in Sweden: The Role of Attitudes to Foreign Accent. In A. Creese and P. Martin (eds.), Multilingual Classroom Ecologies: Inter-relationships, Interactions and Ideologies, pp 123-135. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Bunar, Nihad (2010). Nyanlända och lärande. En forskningsöversikt om nyanlända elever i den Svenska skolan (Newly arrived pupils and learning. A review of the research on newly arrived pupils in Swedish school). Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish Research Council).

Fridlund, L. (2011). Interkulturell undervisning – ett pedagogiskt dilemma: Talet om undervisning i svenska som andraspråk och i förberedelseklasser (Intercultural education – A pedagogical dilemma. Professional talk about the teaching of Swedish as a second language and in preparatory classes). PhD dissertation. Gothenburg University.   

Lahdenperä, P. (1998).  School Difficulties and Immigrant Background: conclusions about intercultural education. European Journal of Intercultural Studies, 9(3), 297-306.

Lahdenperä, Pirjo (2008). Interkulturellt ledarskap – förändring i mångfald (Intercultural leadership – change in diversity). Lund: Studentlitteratur.

OECD (2009). Thematic Review on Migrant Education : Country Background Report for Sweden. Paris: OECD.

OECD (2010) Thematic Review on Migrant Education: Closing the Gap for Immigrant Students. Paris: OECD.

Persson, E. (2012): Raising achievement through inclusion, International Journal of Inclusive Education, DOI:10.1080/13603116.2012.745626

Sirius European Policy Network on the Education of Migrant Children and Young People with a Migrant Background.  Working Package Number 1 – Policy Implementation and Networking. Literature Review Draft.  (accessed at http://www.sirius-migrationeducation.org/ 10 January 2013).

Skolverket (2008). Med annat modersmål - elever i grundskolan och skolans verksamhet. (With another mother tongue – pupils in compulsory school and school activies) Stockholm: Skolverket (The Swedish National Agency for Education)

Stake, R. (1995). The Art of Case Study Research. London: Sage.

Stroud, C. (2004). Rinkeby Swedish and semilingualism in language ideological debates: A Bourdieuean perspective. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 8 (2), 163–230.

Torpsten, A-C. (2008). Erbjudet och upplevt lärande i mötet med svenska som andraspråk och svensk skola (Offered and experienced learning in the encounter with Swedish as a Second Language and Swedish school). PhD dissertation. Växjö University.

The National Centre for Swedish as a Second Language (located at Stockholm University) www.andrasprak.su.se

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
Keyword [en]
Swedish Second Language, immigrants, language in education policy, diversity, inclusion, Sweden
Keyword [sv]
svenska som andraspråk, svenskämnet, elever med invandrarbakgrund, inkluderande pedagogik, språk i utbildningspolitik
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-25439OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hj-25439DiVA: diva2:774913
Conference
ECER 2014, Porto - The Past, the Future and Present of Educational Research in Europe, 1-5 September 2014
Available from: 2014-12-29 Created: 2014-12-29 Last updated: 2015-06-23Bibliographically approved

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