Anna Ekström general director of the National Agency for Education
1 av 2
Anna Ekström general director of the National Agency for Education Credit: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
Anders Auer, policy analyst at the National Agency for Education
2 av 2
Anders Auer, policy analyst at the National Agency for Education Credit: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Immigration impacts Swedish school results

"The Swedish school system must provide education for all students"
2:22 min

The growing number of pupils with foreign backgrounds has a “small but significant” impact on school results in Sweden, according to a new report from the National Agency for Education.

The report, presented Monday, looks at Swedish pupils' performance in the international PISA study and at the number of pupils in Sweden who fail to obtain the grades needed to enter upper secondary school.

The latest PISA study was based on tests in literacy, maths and science that were carried out in 2012 among Sweden's 15-year-olds. When the study was published, in December 2013, it created shockwaves as there was a significant drop in performance in all three subject areas and Sweden fell below the OECD average.

As students who were born abroad or who have two foreign-born parents generally perform worse in school in Sweden there has been speculation that increased immigration could be behind Sweden's poor results in the PISA study. Now, however, the National Agency for Education has found that the main reason for the drop is found elsewhere.

Since year 2000, only 14 percent of the drop in performance in the PISA literacy test can be linked to the increased number of students with immigrant backgrounds. This proportion rises somewhat after 2006, when the number of immigrant pupils have increased, but it is still only a part of the explanation. Or, as the National Agency for Education puts it, it is ”a small but significant part” of the explanation.

There is a clearer link, however, between immigrant pupils and performance when it comes to the increasing number of Swedish pupils who fail to obtain the grades needed to enter upper secondary school. In 2006, 10 percent of pupils did not have sufficient results in Swedish, maths and English. In 2015, that figure was 14 percent.

"Almost the entire increase - up to 85 percent - can be explained by students arriving after the start of school," said Anders Auer, a policy analyst with the National Agency for Education.

Part of the picture is also that pupils who come to Sweden from abroad now are on average two years older when they arrive compared to a decade ago. Back in 2006, the average immigrant child was seven years old. In 2015, the average age was nine.

The general director of the National Agency for Schools, Anna Ekström, said the result of the study published Monday is a clear signal that more resources need to be directed to supporting pupils with foreign backgrounds.

"Teaching is always a difficult matter, but teaching pupils with very diverse backgrounds is of course even more challenging, so this is an important area. The main conclusion for me is that we need to do more in order to make sure that all pupils can learn as much as possible and move to upper secondary education from primary education," said Ekström.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
Du hittar dina sparade avsnitt i menyn under "Min lista".