New syllabus for Swedish for Immigrants (sfi)

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1 New syllabus for Swedish for Immigrants (sfi) The purpose of the education Language opens windows on the world. Language reflects differences and similarities between people, their personalities, their backgrounds and their interests. Sfi gives people with a first language other than Swedish the opportunity to learn and develop a functional new language. This also includes good pronunciation, since this is closely related to communicative competence. Pronunciation also includes the cadence and intonation of the spoken language. Developing skills in a new language gives self-confidence, security in different situations, and the possibility to develop one s own personality. The individual s background and cultural experience find expression, among other things, in how the language is used. It is important to create a linguistic awareness and an understanding of how the language can be used in various contexts. The education must provide the prerequisites for such mastery of the language that pupils can profit from their studies and become involved in social and working life. The education must develop knowledge of how languages are learned. Sfi is first and foremost qualified language education, where the emphasis is on communication in a broad sense. The education must be based on the individual student s interests, prerequisites and needs. Needs are assessed together with the student and it is an advantage if the assessment is documented. Material for text study, conversation and discussions is selected on the basis of the course level and takes up topics connected to knowledge and understanding of the surrounding community. There must be a balance between the language education and the knowledge and understanding of society that the education must also provide. It is very important that students are given every opportunity to practise the Swedish language in working life and that sfi can be combined with other activities, e.g. work experience programmes, validation, practical work experience or other education. Being able to combine sfi with paid employment is also often a prerequisite for a person to be able to participate. Against this background it is very important that the education is flexible and adapted to the individual student. The structure of the education The education consists of three different study paths, Sfi 1, Sfi 2 and Sfi 3, that are designed for people with different backgrounds, prerequisites and goals. Sfi 1 is made up of courses A and B, Sfi 2 of courses B and C and Sfi 3 of courses C and D. Each study path thus consists of two courses that illustrate the progression in the education. This gives students the possibility to plan their studies by means of goals that can be attained within a reasonable period. Two of the courses are included in more than one study path. Depending on the path chosen, each of these two courses, course B and course C, can be either a beginners course or an intermediate course. Irrespective of whether the course is a beginners course or an intermediate course, the course objectives are the same, but the course will have an entirely different design depending on the student s knowledge of Swedish when beginning the course and the study path chosen. Assessment of the level at which a student will begin his or her studies is based on an evaluation of his or her skills, prerequisites and other aspects that

2 may be important to the student s possibilities to achieve the objectives. Despite the fact that a student may terminate his or her sfi language instruction at the end of a course or study path, the intention is for all students to be given the opportunity to study as far as course D. Learning to read and write means that people with no previous education learn to read and write. Learning to read and write also means that people with limited education and who are not functionally literate, are given the opportunity to further their skills and automate them. Becoming literate in a basic sense can take a long time. Learning to read and write can also apply to people who are literate, but whose written language uses a different alphabet and who therefore need to learn the Latin alphabet in order to be able to read and write Swedish. The latter may involve a different learning process. Learning to read and write is not linked to any of the courses A-D but constitutes a segment in itself, that can be studied separately or combined with one of the courses. It is thus a process that can continue for the whole period that the student studies sfi, in order for the skills to have sufficient time to become automatic. The instruction may also be given in the student s first language or another language and should also in such cases be given in parallel with instruction in Swedish. Goals The goals of the sfi program are that students will develop their ability to read and write Swedish, their ability to speak, converse in, read, listen to and understand Swedish in different contexts, good pronunciation, their ability to uses relevant aids, their ability to adapt their language to different recipients and situations, knowledge of how language is learned and learning and communication strategies for their continued language development Assessment and grading Basis for assessment No grade is given for the part of the course devoted to learning to read and write. However, a grade is given upon completion of each of the courses A-D. An assessment is made of the student s skills according to the course objectives. The assessment based on the grading criteria must be related to the level and content of the course and other aspects detailed in the description of each individual course. Gradating in sfi is based upon how precisely, comprehensibly and variedly the student expresses himself/herself in speech and writing how well the student adapts his or her language to the recipient and the situation, the student s ability to understand both details and wholes and appreciate subtle distinctions in the language and how well the student adheres to basic linguistic rules, participates in conversations and discussions and endeavours to make himself/herself understood, and how competently the student reflects upon and analyses different ways of learning Swedish and his or her ability to develop a functional Swedish language.

3 The structure of the education Sfi consists of both a freestanding component, learning to read and write, and four courses. Learning to read and write Course A Course B Course C Course D Learning to read and write This part of the education is intended for adult immigrants who lack basic reading and writing skills or who are literate but who have no mastery of the Latin alphabet. Learning to read and write may be taught in Swedish but may also be taught in a student s first language or another language. Objectives for learning to read and write The student shall understand how written language conveys messages and how the language is constructed, be able to use the language in different contexts, be able to apply the most common rules that apply to written language, be able to use reading and writing to learn, understand and express himself/herself, be aware of how language is learned and develop some simple strategies for reading and writing for different purposes Course A The course shall contribute to develop the student s ability to communicate verbally and understand and use the language in different contexts. In connection with this, linguistic issues of various kinds are taken up. Texts and conversations are based on the student s interests, prerequisites and needs. The course gives an understanding of how language is learned and how different strategies for learning can be used, as well as some simple aids to learning and communication. Objectives that the student shall have attained after completing the course The student shall be able to understand differences between spoken and written language, be able to communicate verbally in simple situations, be able to understand simple spoken language, be able to describe verbally his or her own knowledge and experience in a simple manner, be able to interpret and use some written messages and be aware of how language is learned and be able to use some simple aids. Grading criteria for course A Criteria for the grade Pass The student is able to follow simple verbal instructions with some support. The student participates and makes himself/herself understood in simple conversations about everyday and well known topics

4 The student is able to speak about a familiar subject verbally, comprehensibly and with some context. The student is able to handle some everyday situations that involve writing. The student is able to give some examples of his or her own language learning. The student is able to use simple aids to learn and communicate. Criteria for the grade Pass with distinction The student is able to follow simple verbal instructions unaided. The student participates and makes himself/herself understood in conversations about everyday and well known topics. The student is able to speak about a familiar subject verbally, comprehensibly and with context. Course B The course shall contribute to the student s own development of his or her ability to communicate verbally and in writing. Texts and conversations are based on the student s interests, prerequisites and needs. Everyday life, social life and working life in Sweden may constitute starting points. The student s ability to describe and reflect upon his or her own learning is developed, together with the ability to use simple aids. Objectives that the student shall have attained after completing the course The student shall be able to communicate verbally and in writing in everyday contexts, be able to understand simple spoken language and simple written texts, be able to describe his or her own knowledge and experience and compare them with impressions of life in Sweden, be able to try different ways of learning Swedish and comment upon them and be able to use simple aids to learn and communicate. Grading criteria for course B Criteria for the grade Pass The student is able to reproduce the main points in coherent, clear speech about a familiar topic. The student is able to relate and provide information verbally and clearly about something that is familiar. The student is able to reproduce information in everyday texts in a comprehensible manner. The student participates in different types of conversation in the student s own everyday contexts. The student is able to communicate in writing, for example by writing simple messages. The student is able to comment upon his or her own learning.

5 Criteria for the grade Pass with distinction The student is able to understand and reproduce the content of speech about a familiar subject. The student is able to talk clearly and with some variation about a familiar subject. The student participates in different types of conversation. The student is able to communicate in writing, for example by drawing up a description. Course C The course shall contribute to develop the student s skills in spoken and written Swedish. Texts and conversations are based on the student s interests, prerequisites and needs. The ability to draw comparisons is also included. Everyday life, social life and working life in Sweden and comparisons with other countries may constitute starting points. The student s own reflection upon and planning of his or her own studies is an important element. Objectives that the student shall have attained after completing the course The student shall be able to communicate verbally and in writing in different situations that are relevant to the student, be able to understand spoken language in different situations and texts of different kinds, be able to describe his or her own knowledge and experience of language, working life and cultures and compare them with different conditions in Sweden and be able to use different strategies to learn Swedish, plan his or her own learning and use relevant aids. Grading criteria for course C Criteria for the grade Pass The student is able to understand and reproduce the essential points in clear speech about a familiar subject. The student is able to express himself/herself in writing, coherently and comprehensibly, to convey experiences and views or describe something in everyday, study or work situations. The student is able to read and interpret ordinary written information and instructions and graphical images, diagrams and tables. The student is able to read and comment upon simple, everyday, narrative or descriptive texts and some fictional text. The student is able to reflect upon his or her own way of learning Swedish, and describe some strategies that facilitate their continued language learning. The student is able to use relevant aids.

6 Criteria for the grade Pass with distinction The student is able to reproduce the content, with some variation, of coherent, clear speech about a familiar subject. The student is able to express himself/herself verbally and in writing, coherently, comprehensibly and with some variation, to convey experiences and views or describe something in everyday, study or work situations. The student is able to read and comment upon everyday, narrative or descriptive texts and some fictional text. The student is able to use different strategies and aids to bridge linguistic problems. Course D The course shall contribute to further develop and deepen the student s skills in Swedish. Texts and conversations are based on the student s interests, prerequisites and needs. Everyday life, social life and working life in Sweden and comparisons with other countries constitute starting points. The course will provide such linguistic skills that the student is able to adapt his or her language to recipients and situations and be relatively confident in his or her use of the language. The student will consciously use different strategies for his or her continued learning. Objectives that the student shall have attained after completing the course The student shall be able to express himself/herself relatively confidently, be able to communicate verbally and in writing in different situations in everyday life, social life and working life that are relevant to the student, be able to compare his or her own and others experience of languages, cultures, and social life and working life in Sweden and another country. be able to read, comment upon and converse about texts of different kinds and be able to use different strategies to learn Swedish, plan his or her own continued learning, and use relevant aids. Grading criteria for course D Criteria for the grade Pass The student is able to understand and reproduce the content of speech and texts of different kinds. The student participates actively in conversations and discussions about everyday life, working life and social life. The student is able to express himself/herself clearly and comprehensibly and with some linguistic variation in coherent speech and writing, and thereby express personal views and opinions. The student is able to read and profit from different kinds of text and reflect upon their content and purpose.

7 The student is able to draw comparisons between his or her own and others experience of language, cultures, social life and working life. The student is able to discuss his or her learning strategies and choice of aids. Criteria for the grade Pass with distinction The student is able to understand and reproduce the content of speech and texts about subjects that may also to some degree be unfamiliar. The student participates actively in conversations and discussions about everyday life, working life and social life and can argue in favour of his or her views. The student is able to read and profit from different kinds of text, reflect upon their content and purpose, and put his or her observations into words.

8 Comments Syllabus for Swedish language instruction for immigrants (sfi) The steering documents governing Swedish language instruction for immigrants (sfi) were last changed in 2002/2003. To aid teachers, the National Agency for Education drew up supporting materials: Sfi. Kartläggning och studieplanering (Sfi. Analysis and study planning) and Bedömningsmaterial Svenska för invandrare Kurs A D (Assessment materials Swedish for Immigrants Courses A D). Both of these can be downloaded from the National Agency for Education s website under the heading Vuxenutbildning/Sfi (Adult education/sfi). The syllabus in use from 1 January 2007 is based on the proposed changes in sfi that were detailed in the Government Bill Vissa frågor om vuxnas lärande (Issues relating to adults learning) (2005/06:148) : The Government has for some time been working to develop proposals that will accelerate and improve the integration of immigrants in Swedish society. For a person coming to Sweden, know-ledge of the Swedish language is an important factor for them to be able to establish himself or herself in society and in the labour market quickly. The changes can be found in Chapter 13 of the Education Act (1985:1100) and in the ordinance on Swedish language instruction for immigrants. These documents are available on the National Agency for Education s website under the heading Lagar och regler (Legislation and regulations). The purpose of the changes is to raise quality, improve results and thereby increase throughput in sfi, which means that: adult immigrants who lack basic reading and writing skills will be given the opportunity to receive such education within sfi instead of in basic adult education, as has hitherto been the case, learning to read and write may be taught in a student s first language or another language, the emphasis in the sfi syllabus, that today includes language instruction in Swedish and Civics, is shifted towards more qualified language instruction, the new grade designations are Pass and Pass with distinction and the National Agency for Education will also now draw up grading criteria for Pass with distinction. Literacy (basic reading and writing skills) for immigrants is transferred to sfi from basic adult education, where it has been taught within the framework of Swedish as a second language. Literacy may be taught in a student s first language or in another language, The guideline for the length of the instruction will continue to be 525 hours and the instruction must consist of an average of at least 15 hours a week over a four-week period. This requirement applies during the whole period of instruction. The number of teaching hours may, however, be reduced if a student so requests and the local authority deems it consistent with the purpose of the instruction. The literacy component of the instruction is additional to the 525 hours. The local authority, in co-operation with the county labour board, shall work to ensure

9 that an sfi student is given every opportunity to practise the Swedish language in working life and that sfi can be combined with other activities, e.g. work experience programmes, validation, practical work experience or other education. The local authority shall also work to ensure that studies in sfi can be pursued while the student is receiving sickness benefit in accordance with the National Insurance Act (1962:381) and that sfi can be combined with activities offered in Health and Medical Care. It shall also be possible to combine sfi with gainful employment. The changes in the Education Act came into force on 1 July However, the regulations in Chapter 13, Section 1 of the Education Act that concern literacy will only apply to instruction that begins after 1 January Regarding assessment, the National Agency for Education has previously only drawn up grading criteria for the grade of Pass. The grades will be changed to Pass and Pass with distinction and through a change in its mandate, the National Agency for Education will now draw up grading criteria for both grades. The regulations can be found in Sections 15 and 16 of the ordinance on Swedish language instruction for immigrants and they apply as of 1 December Background to the new syllabus The National Agency for Education s assignment states that sfi shall first and foremost be qualified language instruction; The new sfi syllabus should reflect a shift in emphasis in the instruction to qualified language instruction (extract from the National Agency for Education s assignment to draw up a new syllabus for Swedish language instruction for immigrants (sfi) etc). The instruction shall also provide knowledge and understanding of Swedish society. In the Bill, the Government states: Language and culture are closely related. In all language instruction, texts about the society and the culture where a particular language is spoken constitute a source of both knowledge of the language and knowledge of the country in question. In the same Bill, the Government also states that it is a great advantage for the individual if the language instruction is based on everyday life and that instruction in Swedish can to advantage be linked to instruction in language used at work. Many students have occupational skills and experience from their home countries and an ability to describe such skills and experience and understand how they can be practised and applied in Swedish society means that they can be put to use in working life more quickly in situations that are relevant to the individual. Teachers have great freedom to choose material and methods so that a balance is achieved between the various requirements. In addition to giving sfi a clearer focus on language instruction, a further reason for lifting out social information is that such information should be given as quickly as possible and also be able to be given in the student s first language. Social information is, moreover, the responsibility of the local authorities and all new immigrants are entitled to an individual introduction after their arrival in Sweden. In the course of drawing up the syllabus, the National Agency for Education has used available information, including a Government assignment where the National Agency for Education evaluated how local authorities applied the 2003 syllabi for Swedish language instruction for immigrants and current statistics. In following up and evaluating sfi in Sweden s municipalities, the National Agency for Education contacted the school principals Effektstudie sfi-kursplaner. Dnr :835 (A study of effects sfi syllabi. Record no :835) Utbildningsresultat 2006 Riksnivå. Rapport nr 274 (Education results 2006 National level. Report no. 274)

10 responsible for sfi in all municipalities by means of a web-based questionnaire. In addition, interviews were also conducted in four municipalities. Co-operation with the Swedish National Labour Market Board (ams), the Integration Board, the Migration Board, the National Agency for School Improvement, and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions within the framework of the Överenskommelse om utveckling av introduktionen för flyktingar och andra invandrare (Agreement on development of the introduction of refugees and other immigrants) also provided bases for the task. Among other things, the National Agency for Education and ams discussed the need for knowledge of Swedish in relation to the demands as regards language skills that are made in the labour market and how cooperation on these issues can be developed. Who can study in the sfi programme? The age limit for participation in sfi language instruction is 16. A local authority, however, can allow a person who is entitled to participate in sfi to begin upper secondary school education if he or she so wishes and belongs to the upper secondary school target group. For some people, it is natural to attend upper secondary school; others prefer to learn Swedish within the framework of sfi. Assessment of which type of school is most appropriate is based on the individual s needs and prerequisites. The local authority is responsible for offering sfi and shall work actively to reach those people who are entitled to sfi and encourage them to participate in the education. If a person wishing to participate in sfi education is in employment, the local authority shall consult the employer and the local employee organisation as to how that person s participation in the education can be arranged. The instruction is free of charge, but the student may be required to pay some small costs. The instruction shall be able to be begun within three months and a person who has begun a course in sfi is entitled to complete it. Exceptions are where a student can not profit from the instruction or if he or she does not make satisfactory progress. Studying in the sfi programme Sfi shall give adults who lack basic knowledge of the Swedish language the opportunity to develop their ability to communicate verbally and in written Swedish in everyday life, social life and working life and studies, on the basis of his or her prerequisites, needs and personal objectives. Literacy may apply both to people with very limited education who can not read or write and to people who are literate and use another alphabet. The instruction shall be so comprehensive as to be perceived as meaningful and leads to specified objectives. The instruction may be supplemented by self-tuition and other studies, work experience, work or rehabilitation. In such cases, instruction must be so planned that it can be combined with such activities without problem. Literacy education should take place at the same time as the sfi studies and continue for the whole of the sfi period since language acquisition is a process, where time and scope for reflection and consolidation of the knowledge are required. Swedish language instruction for immigrants is intended for people who have different study objectives and who may among themselves have very different prerequisites as regards, for example, educational background, life and work experience, and age. There is a great necessity for flexibility and adaptation to the needs of different groups and individuals. This means, for example, that students can attain their objectives by following different paths through the sfi courses. Cooperation between educators and other actors, for example public employment offices, is of pressing concern in adapting the education to future needs. It is therefore important that it be planned together with the student and the planning should be documented. One aid in this respect is personal study plans, that can also be revised if necessary. More about this can be found in the National Agency for Education s publication Individuell studieplan,

11 individuell kurs och intyg i kommunal vuxenutbildning (Personal study plans, personalised courses, and certificates in municipal adult education) and in the agency s report Intyg (Certificates). Both reports can be found on the National Agency for Education s website under the heading Vuxenutbildning (Adult education). Sfi is characterised by the student developing linguistic skills in a country where the language is spoken. The purpose of the education is to give the student the desire and interest to learn Swedish, venture and be able to use the language in different situations, and linguistically profit from and examine the content that the language conveys. The education will develop a comprehensive communicative ability that is made up of different competencies. Competence in forming linguistically coherent units is developed and the student s communicative ability is gradually adapted more and more closely to situations and recipients. Where the student s own linguistic skills are not sufficient, he or she needs to compensate by using strategies such as paraphrasing, synonyms, questions and body language. This competence also includes the ability to master the form of the language, including stress, intonation, phraseology, vocabulary, word formation, grammar and spelling. The syllabus emphasises the importance of good pronunciation. A further skill is awareness of how language is learned. The education shall give the student the opportunity to develop his or her ability to use different learning strategies, both individually and in cooperation with others, in order to continuously plan and continue to build on their skills in Swedish using the spoken and written Swedish in their environment. The point of departure for both the education and learning is the students different first languages, other language skills, occupational experience, educational background, and their interests and needs. The ability to reflect upon similarities and differences between one s own experience of language and cultures and the Swedish language and the cultures that the student encounters in Sweden is also included in the education and contributes to an understanding of different cultures and thereby intercultural competence. The education is also intended to provide information and guidance that will enable the student to plan his or her continued education and work. Assessment As previously, two grades are used in sfi: Pass and Pass with distinction. The National Agency for Education will now also draw up criteria for both grades. Assessment is based on the five skills aural comprehension, reading comprehension, conversation and verbal interaction, verbal production and writing proficiency. Strategies, linguistic quality and intercultural experience are also included. More about assessment can be found in Bedömningsmaterial Svenska för invandrare (Assessment materials Swedish for immigrants. Courses A D. To aid assessment, there are also national tests that teachers should use in order to ensure that the bases for assessment are applied as uniformly as possible over the whole country. The intention is not that the national test should be an examination, but that it should be part of the teacher s basis for assessment. A report, Det nationella provets funktion och status inom sfi (The function and status of the national test in sfi), was published in December The report is based on the results of a study in 2005 of the national test and assessment materials in sfi that was conducted by means of interviews with school principals, teachers and students at ten different teaching establishments. The report can be ordered or downloaded from the National Agency for Education s website under the heading Publikationer (Publications). These comments on the sfi syllabus may be revised and added to as necessary.

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