21 / 2005
Marina Lukšič-Hacin


The contribution is focused on the Swedish situation, its multiculturalism policy and narrower, on its attitude towards immigrants, and on how all mentioned reflects in circumstances in education with stresses on elementary school level. A basic frame of the contribution is a dissertation on the policy of multiculturalism in Sweden that should bring to realisation more equitable relations, and through this links with the ideologies of equalitarianism and anti-racism. All the mentioned reflects as well in fundamental principles, which set frames to educational programmes and are being realised in practice in various manners. Therefore, in continuation, we will be interested in the Swedish situation itself, in its multiculturalism policy and in a narrower sense, in the attitude to immigrants, and in how all the mentioned reflects in circumstances in the sphere of education with stresses on elementary school level.

The year 1975 is significant for the present treatise, when the parliament adopted a resolution of three main principles of immigrant policy: equality (jämlikhet), freedom of choice (valfrihet) and partnership (samverkan). Equality in standard of living. Freedom of choice as a right of the immigrants to decide by themselves whether to preserve their native languages and cultures or to accept the Swedish one and Swedish identity or both. Partnership as partnership between immigrant communities and the state. The adopted principles have caused some changes on institutional level. In regard of the mentioned treatise, let us just point out education where changes were linked with the principle of freedom, which among other ensures the preservation of source language. That right should in the future be implemented within the frame of public education.

The basic principle of the Swedish educational system is that all children and youngsters must have equal opportunities in view of access to public schools, regardless of ethnic belonging, place of residence and their social and economic status. Equal education must be assured in all types of schools in the entire state. Public elementary education is on the normative level bound by the following chief principles:

- equal access to public education
- equivalency in education
- knowledge and skills
- democratic values
- equality and opposition to unequal treating.

Pupils who at home speak other native language than Swedish must be ensured a choice of the subject “mother tongue” and thus be enabled to develop their language, upgrade it and become bilingual and able to learn about their source cultural heritage. They can choose the native language as an alternative for another foreign language (immediately after the English language, which is the first compulsory language) as part of individual pupil’s choice, or outside school time. The learning of mother tongue outside school time and regular elementary school programme is limited to seven years. This limitation does not apply for children members of a national minority; therefore, it is valid above all for children of immigrants.

The realisation of classes itself, the place and time have been changed in the course of time by various laws; all along, mother tongues were taught by teachers chosen by Swedish institutions. For their work, the teachers were paid by the Swedish state, more precisely by communes. For tuition, the teachers were to acquire necessarily competence (behőrighet). The candidate was to have had appropriate education in the homeland (teachers’ training college, pedagogical grammar school, college of education or a university degree) and at least six terms of practice in a Swedish school with at least 15 teaching hours of weekly engagement, or the Swedish High school for teachers – department for native language degree.

For adult immigrants who arrived in Sweden in the seventies, courses for learning Swedish language were organised. The courses were being carried out during paid working hours as well. Immigrants were entitled to 700 hours of free of charge course of Swedish language. Later the possibility changed into necessity. Communes were responsible for the realisation. In the nineties, all new immigrants have the right to charge free learning of Swedish language, which is considered as “Swedish as other language” or as “Swedish for immigrants”. The learning is being realised within the frame of education for adults. Immigrants can also learn Swedish language in institutions that acquired licenses from communes (for example Slovenian societies).