The report examined both distance learning and on-site classes, highlighting a particular concern regarding the lack of opportunities for students in distance classes to practice speaking Swedish. Helén Ängmo, the director-general of the agency, emphasized that insufficient opportunities for students to speak Swedish raise barriers for their integration into society and the labor market. Participation in dialogue, whether with healthcare providers, government agencies, or educational institutions, is crucial, and it is troubling to observe persistent quality issues in SFI, especially in relation to distance classes and their level of individual adaptation.
Although online classes offer greater flexibility for teachers to tailor course materials to students’ abilities, they generally provide fewer opportunities for varied interaction, as students are often required to work independently at home with limited chances for practicing spoken and written skills with their peers.
Another prevalent issue identified was the lack of opportunities for students to practice Swedish in everyday situations. Many students expressed their desire to learn conversational skills for interacting with people and engaging with government agencies and authorities.
Some students even reported being unable to communicate with supermarket staff despite having studied SFI for a considerable period of time. Others mentioned having learned how to communicate with staff at their children’s schools or preschools from their own children, as these topics were neglected in their SFI studies.
Furthermore, students with a higher proficiency in Swedish often faced a lack of challenge in class, and their influence on teaching methods was limited. However, providers that more frequently tailored classes to students’ interests, experiences, and goals were more successful in incorporating examples from their daily lives.
For instance, healthcare workers were given the opportunity to practice language used in the healthcare sector, while others received assistance in language skills necessary for picking up their children from school or completing various forms.
Teachers’ expectations and the support they received played a significant role in determining the quality of teaching. In classes where teachers felt there was insufficient assistance from school leadership, limited collaboration with their peers, or inadequate time for teacher-student contact in online courses, the quality of teaching tended to be poorer.
To address these issues, the agency emphasized the need for better support for teachers in developing and adapting their teaching methods to suit individual students. Only 55% of SFI teachers in the 2022/23 academic year possessed the necessary qualifications to teach SFI at the adult level, a figure deemed insufficient by the agency.
While acknowledging the potential benefits of online classes, the agency emphasized the importance of their further development to ensure that students in such programs have an equal opportunity to develop their Swedish communication skills compared to students attending in-person classes.
Online classes provide flexibility for individuals to combine their studies with work or parental responsibilities, but equal access to language development should be ensured.
The agency underscored the significance of SFI for Sweden as a country, emphasizing its role in providing individuals who do not have Swedish as their native language with the opportunity to learn Swedish and effectively communicate in everyday life, the community, the workplace, and further studies. Municipal-run Swedish for Immigrants classes for adults were highlighted as playing a vital role in this regard.