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Agency to track mother-tongue literacy

SWEDEN

THE literacy of immigrant children in both their mother tongue and Swedish is to be monitored to ensure that they do not fall behind Swedish children of similar ability.

The monitoring will be carried out by the Agency for School Improvement, which was set up in March to target schools in the inner cities with large numbers of immigrants.

Director Monica Lansfjord says: "If a Turkish pupil is doing well in mother tongue but badly in Swedish, then we know it is not just about ability.

There is no reason why non-Swedish speakers cannot learn to love Swedish books."

Some 12 per cent of the Swedish school population - 200,000 children - were born to non-Swedish parents and speak a language other than Swedish at home.

Tests are being drawn up for the 10 most spoken immigrant languages. The largest numbers are in Finnish, followed by Arabic, Spanish and Turkish.

Immigrant and refugee children are entitled to instruction in their mother tongue, if teachers are available, in languages where there are at least five speakers.

Ms Lansfjord said mother-tongue teaching may be introduced on a limited scale to ensure immigrant pupils do not fall behind in core subjects, such as maths. Already children can have course content explained to them in their mother tongue on a limited basis.

New assessments for 15 to 16-year-olds will include special tasks in "free writing" in Swedish for non-Swedish speakers.

"We want to see if the non-Swedish speakers can express complex thoughts in Swedish," says Birgitta Garme, of the University of Uppsala's department of Scandinavian languages, which is drawing up the assessment papers.

Those who cannot complete the tasks will receive intensive instruction in Swedish literature.

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