Migrants’ children in Swedish schools are increasingly segregated

Some Swedish schools have almost exclusively either foreign-born or Swedish children, according to a recent study. The increasing segregation leads to lower education levels and missed opportunities for the kids, officials warn.

Thousands of migrants’ children in Sweden are less and less likely to meet their Swedish classmates at school, according to a survey from the state-funded SVT TV channel. The study of 3,641 Swedish schools published last week shows four out of 10 schools have an imbalance in the ratio of migrant and Swedish children compared to the overall proportion in the given municipality.

“We get an increased concentration of students based on social background and thus differences in terms of school performance,” Peter Fredriksson, chief of the Swedish National Agency for Education, said, commenting on the study. “You should have the same opportunities to succeed regardless of which school you go to. But it is not the case today.”

A 2017 report showed a sharp increase in the performance gap between migrant students and Swedish-born children, with socio-economic background and neighborhood being the key factors in the division.

Compulsory school education has been a crucial element of Sweden’s social welfare system since 1842. Every child was entitled to attend the nearest school to their place of residence. In the 1990s, private schools emerged and parents gained the right to choose the school. A 2018 report reveals that well-educated Swedish-born families tend to withdraw from schools where children of parents with low-level education and migrant backgrounds prevail.

According to the SVT’s survey, local government attempts to improve the situation – including measures such as school redistricting or merging several schools – have not led to the desired results, and the National Agency for Education statistics still shows uneven distribution of students within the same municipalities.

The report was met with a number of harsh reactions on social media, with some users complaining about violations of children’s rights. “Each student should be free to choose the school and should not pay the price for politicians and the media’s failure,” one person tweeted.

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