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The multiple causes of school  failure among minority students in Sweden

Dr: Abdullahi Mohamed Ahmed
Gothenburg - Sweden   

Why students succeed or fail in school has been the subject of much debate particularly for students who are ethnic, linguistic, or social class backgrounds different from the dominant group (swedish). 

In this article, I will consider the constant and complex interplay and interactions among several factors in exploring the success or failure of minority students in swedish schools. The main factors which shape the success or failure among students in swedish schools, particularly to minority students, are the following: 

  • Racism and discrimination
  • Structural factors in schools
  • Cultural and other differences such as ethnicity
  • Linguistic diversity in classrooms
  • Parent involvement

Racism and discrimination 

Schools are institutions that respond to and reflect the larger society. It is not therefore not surprising that racism and discrimination find their way into schools in much the same way that they find their way into other institutions such as housing, employment, political parties and the criminal justice system.

Masoud Kamals report shows clearly how swedish institutions discriminates to the ethnic groups in swedish society. In his report, he explains that racism and other forms of discrimination , particularly classism, ethnocentrism, and linguisticism, have a long history in swedish schools. 

Recent studies shows that the minority children are ten times more likely than swedish children to be placed in classes for the educable mentally retarded students, specially children from single mother parents. They suppose that single mothers cannot defend their human rights , they cannot speak swedish language fluently and  they have no idea how  the system works in this country. Many minority students drop out of school at higher rate than swedish students. Small number of these students graduates and goes to the secondary schools or even to the universities. 

If this indicators of educational failure were caused only students background and social characteristics, it would be difficult to explain why students with such characteristics are successful in some schools and not in others. Therefore, I believe that the role of racism and discrimination in this underachievement cannot be discounted. 

Definitions of racism and discrimination 

Let me begin by briefly reviewing the meaning of racism  in order to understand how to it operates in the schools. There are levels of racism:individual,  cultural and institutional. Individual racism is a personal belief that people of one group inferior to people of another because of physical traits.

Cultural racism is the belief in the inferiority of the culture of a group of people or even the belief that they have have no real culture. Institutional racism is manifested through established laws, customs, and practices that reflects and produce racial inequalities in societies. 

Individual and cultural racism are belief that are acted on in the personal and individual spheres, whereas institutional racism is demonstrated primarily through the policies and practices of institutions. 

We need to understand the important role that power plays in institutional racism. It is primarily through the power of the people who control these institutions that racist policies and practices are reinforced and legitimized. Furthermore, When we understand racism as a institutional problem and not only as individual dislike for a particular group of people, we can better understand the negative and destructive effects it can have. 

Manifestation of racism and discrimination 

Here , I will highlight some of the ways in which racism and other forms of discrimination are manifested daily in schools. School practices and policies continue to discriminate against children from ethnic groups in very concrete ways. Studies shows that most students from ethnic groups in Sweden are found in predominately in minority schools, like Hammarkullen, Bergsjön, Sjumilan, Rinkyskolan, Rosengård, Gottsunda och Fittjaskolan. Nevertheless, white flight and housing pattern have been successful in resegregating many schools.

And segregation inevitability results in school system that are separate and unequal , providing differential school experiences for students based on thier social class, race and ethnicity. 

For example, schools that serve students of minority groups to provide curricula that are watered down and a lower level those that serve primarily swedish students. In addition, The teachers of these schools tends to have less experience and less education than colleagues who teach in schools that serve primarily swedish students. Thus, desegregating schools does not guarantee equity for all students. 

Teachers are not believe that minority students are capable of academically demanding work; and finally , teachers tend to avoid interaction, including eye contact and phyical contact, with their minority students more often than swedish students. 

A number of studies have documented that teachers tend to pay more attention to their swedish students than to their minority students. Teachers praise their swedish students more, direct more questions specifically at them, have more cognitively demanding expectations of them, and offer more explicit encouragement.  

Although according to objective linguistic measures, minority students equaled or exceeded their swedish age-mates in language development, subjective measures by teachers rated the same children of minority as inferior. It has also been found that stereotypes by teachers is based on ethnic and social class variation. 

Another way in which racism and other forms of discrimination are manifested daily in schools are schooling reflects social class differences rather than eradicate them. They compared the number of years of schooling of students with the socioeconomic status of their parents and found that those students whose parents were in the highest socioeconomic group tended to complete the most years of schooling. Thus, schooling maintains and solidifies ethnic and class division.  

Most practices and policies on school failure , however have focused primarily om inadequacy of the students home environment or culture. Minority students school failure attempted to explain it by blaming the children's poorly developed language; an adequate mother; too little stimulation in the home; too much stimulation in the home ( their home were too chaotic and dis organized).   

I conclude this article that racism and their forms of discrimination play a key in setting up and maintaining inappropriate learning environment to many students, specially minority students. 

I hope you like this article and will follow the coming articles in order to empower yourself and help your own children of getting good education. And education is the only mean that can make differences.   

Dr: Abdullahi Mohamed Ahmed
Gothenburg - Sweden   

Afeef: Aragtida qoraalkan waxaa leh qoraaga ku saxiixan

Faafin: | Jan 4, 2007



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