Few immigrants who come to Sweden at the age of 12 or older finish high school

2:49 min

Immigrant children who come to Sweden at 12 years of age or older, have little chance of getting through high school. Reviewing nationwide high school figures dating back to 2007, Radio Sweden found that only a quarter of those who arrived in Sweden at the age of 12 and over managed to finish their studies and were able to apply to college.

Yusuf came to Sweden when he was 17 years old. He dropped out of high school because he understood so little of what was said in the classroom.

"I remember I once told my teacher Tommy that I felt like I was deaf when he spoke because I understood so little of what he said in class," Yusuf tells Radio Sweden. He tried schools in two different municipalities but left both times.

It is known that immigrant children who arrive in Sweden older than eleven years of age have difficulty with national high school programmes. Figures from the National Agency for Education (Skolverket), show that most will never catch up.

Radio Sweden examined all students in the country who started high school in 2007. Of those who came to Sweden aged 12 and over, only a quarter finished high school, and were eligible to apply for college.

Most left high school prematurely, or were left on what was then called, Individual programme IV.

Those who came to Sweden aged between 9 and 11, twice as many - about half - passed their high school exams.

Radio Sweden looked at the progress of those children who started school late in Sweden and went on to high school in 2007. Most found it difficult to find work. Six years on, in 2013, more than one in five were so called UVAS, young people who neither work nor study.

Cecilia Rosengren is a teacher at the Sprint High School in Stockholm, and teaches newly arrived pupils with very little background in education.

"Inwardly, I sometimes wonder how it will go: Where will you end up in our society? Who will hire you? When I know how hard it is to get a job in Sweden today. And I think it is hard to feel that we are letting them down," she says to Radio Sweden.

In two audits, in 2009 and 2014, the School's Inspectorate strongly criticised the teaching methods for new arrivals.

The numbers of immigrant children entering the school system is increasing, and Nihad Bunar, Professor of Child and Youth Studies at Stockholm University, says that there is a risk of a large group of immigrant children falling completely outside the system.

"It leads to a divided society. This leads to tensions in society, and it leads to the erosion of social cohesion," Nihad Bunar tells Radio Sweden.