Sweden Proposes Immigrant Orientation

Sweden proposes immigrant orientation

The Local (Sweden), May 20, 2010

All newly arrived immigrants should undergo courses in core societal values and be taught about how Swedish society works with municipalities obliged to offer 60 hours of teaching, a government inquiry has proposed.

'Without knowledge of fundamental societal values an important prerequisite to be able to live and work in Sweden is lacking,' writes Erik Amna, who led the government inquiry, in a debate article in the Dagens Nyheter daily.

Amna, whose proposal has been presented to the integration minister Nyamko Sabuni, suggests that the courses should be divided into three key areas – values (the constitutional foundations), the welfare state (public institutions), and everyday life (practical applied knowledge of how the welfare state works).

Erik Amna proposes that municipalities be instructed to offer 60 hours of schooling to each new immigrant and advises against dividing up new arrivals according to traditional categories such as ethnicity or religious identity.

'How shall we begin the story of Sweden for the 40,000 refugees, relatives, labour market immigrants and other adult arrivals who move to Sweden every year?' asks Erik Amna, who is a Swedish professor in political science at Orebro University.

Amna argues that his proposal is based on a concern to ensure that all members of society have an equal chance of 'on the one hand to take part in collective decisions about societal development, and on the other be able to form their lives independently and to live in freedom'.

The professor draws on the thinking of German philosopher Jrgen Habermas to argue that multiculturalism can be affirmed and social cohesion clarified by 'deepening the long-term constitutional solidarity' referring to the importance of acquiring knowledge of ethical norms prevalent in the Swedish constitution.

The proposal suggests that 60 hours of teaching will be offered in the native tongues of the around 30,000 who come to Sweden to live and who are issued with residence permits extending beyond 12 months.

The courses would not be obligatory and thus if half accept the opportunity the cost would run to 90 million kronor ($12 million) per annum, Amna estimates.

Erik Amna underlines the importance of showing respect to the individual adults and recognises that 'individuals with different backgrounds require scope for individually-adapted reflection and dialogue' and argues that teachers would need support from universities to develop the required expertise.