Skip to content

Regulations make it difficult for newly arrived students

Published: 15 October 2019

Young people who have fleed to Sweden find it difficult to enter the national high school programs because they are not given enough time to meet the eligibility requirements. This according to new research at Luleå University of Technology. In Sweden, 30,000 newly arrived students each year attend a so-called language introduction program, in preparation for the national upper secondary education.

– Since students are not allowed to apply for national high school programs after the age of 19, the time aspect may mean that they do not have time to obtain adequate knowledge for eight to twelve approved grades, which is the eligibility requirements in the Swedish upper secondary school, says Åsa Bjuhr, PhD student at Luleå University of Technology, and points out that the conditions for these students differ greatly.

Big difference on educational background

– This is a heterogeneous group of students with large differences in educational background and then one to three years of study at the language introduction program can be a far too short time.

In the dissertation "Completion and continuation: A study on the transition from the introductory language introduction program to a national program at the upper secondary school", Åsa Bjuhr has studied pupils' transition from the language introduction national program at the upper secondary school by reading control documents and interviews with teachers and pupils in six different municipalities in northern Sweden. The language introduction program is today Sweden's fourth largest high school program with more than 30,000 students.

Students in larger schools are disadvantaged

In addition to the problems with the tight time frame, Åsa Bjuhr's research also shows that students in smaller municipalities are favored compared to students in larger municipalities. This is due to closer links between the language introduction program and the national programs at smaller school units.

– In smaller schools, students often have the same teacher in both the language introduction and in the regular high school programs. It has proven to be a security that facilitates the transition. At smaller school units, you are also more likely to have students start high school studies in the subjects they are qualified in before they are finished with the elementary school level in the others. This is an opportunity that seems to be more difficult to implement organizationally in the larger secondary school units.

Although many new arrivals meet the eligibility requirements, Åsa Bjuhr's study points out that the short deadline not only places high demands on the students but also risks creating pre-conceived sentences among the teachers.

One third continue to national programs

– Some teachers, early in the process, assess the students' ability to reach the knowledge requirements that are required based on past experience of the regulations. It can lead to predestination, that is, students are assessed even before they have been able to show what they can. Had the regulations been designed in a different way, they might have made other assessments, says Åsa Bjuhr.

Only about a third of the students in the language introductory program are now moving on to national programs. Once there, there is often a sense of exclusion and difficulty in acquiring the language. Something that could have been facilitated if the support functions had been more developed within the upper secondary school.

– In upper secondary school there is no study guide in the mother tongue or mother tongue teaching, which is to some extent within the language introduction. There is simply no staff with the right skills in the school system.


Åsa Bjuhr

Bjuhr, Åsa - Senior Lecturer

Organisation: Swedish and Education, Education and Languages, Department of Health, Education and Technology
Phone: +46 (0)920 491552
Room: R222 - Luleå»