Fast-track teacher training
Minister for Higher Education and Research Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Minister for Employment Ylva Johansson, and Minister for Education Gustav Fridolin present the fast-track teacher training scheme. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman / SvD / TT

Fast-track course for migrant teachers under fire

"It takes a long time to learn a language"
3:24 min

The government's decision to introduce a fast-track teacher training course for migrants has stirred up debate.

"I don't think the politicians really recognise that it sometimes takes quite a long time to learn a language and this fast-track doesn't give these people enough time to learn the language,” says Gunlög Josefsson, a former school teacher who now works as a professor in Swedish at Lund University.

Josefsson says that when it comes to integration and getting migrants into work, the number one priority should be to make sure they learn Swedish.

The aim of the government's fast-track training schemes is to help migrants with professional qualifications from their home countries get jobs in sectors where there is currently a shortage in workers. So, fast-track training schemes have been established for professions ranging from chefs and butchers to nurses and dentists. And now there's one for teachers.

The idea is that migrants will learn both Swedish and professional skills on the fast-track courses. As for the teacher training one - it's 26 weeks long and combines theory and practice. And part of the course will be in Arabic.

But the idea that migrants can learn Swedish, get a good idea of how the Swedish school system works and acquire teaching skills in just over six months - that's wishful thinking, says Josefsson. She insists: “It’s too little time. You have to have more time in order to be a good teacher in a Swedish school, regardless of what your subject is:”

Six Swedish universities have been tasked with developing and offering the fast-track teacher training courses. One of them is Örebro University, where Marie Holm is an administrator.

“The teacher training course will start this autumn and the new arrivals who want to be part of the course have to be in contact with the Swedish Employment Agency, Arbetsförmedlingen,” Holm explains.

Holm says migrants who have teaching qualifications from their home countries and who are registered with the employment agency can apply for a place at the fast-track course. But for many, completing the course won't be enough. You have to meet a range of criteria - including having high-school level Swedish - before you can get a Swedish teaching license.

So what will the migrants do during the 26-week course?

“The purpose is to learn what it’s like to work as a teacher in Swedish schools and preschools,” Holm explains. “They have to be at different schools, to practice and learn… and they will also have lessons at the university.”

But Gunlög Josefsson says it's not reasonable to accept people on to teacher training courses at Swedish universities if they don't already speak Swedish. They have to be able to understand and discuss the Swedish syllabus and to read Swedish course literature, says Josefsson.

“That’s basically the system we've had for a long time and this is the normal way for people to start at university. You have to fulfill the requirements and I can’t see why it should be done differently here, where you’re going to have a profession where the language is one of the basic tools,” says Josefsson.

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