Language courses for people with a migrant background

Short summary

The idea of the NGO International Acquaintances (Internationella Bekantskaper, IB) was started in the spring of 2008 by a teacher at Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) in Tensta.

There are 17 000 people living in Tensta who come from all over the world. Some of them have been educated in their homeland, but many have no education and some are illiterate without any knowledge of what it takes to complete school. The majority of them study Swedish for foreign adults at SFI in Tensta.

During the spring of 2007 there was one teacher who had been employed in SFI for one year. During this time, he met and taught students who had very limited contact with Swedish speaking people. Through conversations with many of these students, it became clear to him that almost all of them lacked any Swedish acquaintances regardless of how long time they had lived in Sweden. Many of them had lived in Sweden for several years, but despite this fact they did not achieve more contact with Swedish speaking people than they had when they had arrived here.

With the intention to remedy this situation, the teacher has, since the spring of 2008, worked with and built a network of Swedish people, who are interested in helping to counteract this lack of connectivity between large parts of Stockholm’s inhabitants. The recruiting of these Swedish participants is mainly carried out through “Voluntärbyrån” (the Volunteer bureau) but also with the help of posters on bulletin boards within libraries and other public places in the inner city. Currently there are approximately 300 Swedish people who, on a non-profit basis, participate regularly in some of the activities that are coordinated.

The organisation organizes activities such as:

•  Improving conversation skills within smaller groups during classes at the courses ”Swedish for Immigrants” and ”Swedish as second language”.  

•  Language support to newly arrived youths in the age 16-20 years

•  School homework help in the outer city suburbs

•  International walks and other activities outside of normal work or class time

•  “Swedish with your baby” for parents on maternity leave who wants to practice Swedish and make intercultural meetings

The vision of the NGO is: A Sweden where the fellowship between all citizens is characterized by consensus, respect and trust.

Main characteristics of the challenge, description of the target group

The challenge was to integrate people with migrant background into Swedish society. The initiative focuses on teaching  Swedish language and integration of people. 

In the daily activities, we face many challenges. The most important ones are:

  • to find good and interested volunteers;
  • to organize staff for helping in writing homework in the evenings;
  • to find a partner in Tensta which will promote ”läxhjälpen” (the person responsible for the study support);
  • to find appropriate premises in the area.

The organisation started with an interested teacher with an idea. In Tensta there are volunteers who help as homework intermediaries but the demand is bigger than the supply.

The organisation focuses on parents with poor Swedish knowledge and have children in the schools in Tensta and therefore have difficulties to help their child in school.


Success factors and processes

In collaboration with SFI in Tensta and with a very engaged father from the area we have begun in two places, two nights per week, in SFI’s premises and in a youth club. Through a special non-profit organisation we try to find interested and educated Swedish citizens who want to contribute by becoming homework support volunteers. We also make advertising at libraries, university and at workplaces. People that register are contacted by our person responsible for the study support (“läxhjälpen”) and can be booked for one or more occasions during a term. Many people sign up for once a week. The teachers at SFI and the contact person in Tensta promote the homework support to parents in the area. All children/youths participating must also have a parent with them. This is to ensure to have a calm and study-friendly atmosphere while at the same time give the parent a chance to understand what the child is working on in school and to learn more Swedish.

Impact of measures taken

No specific evaluation has been performed. But the demand continues to increase steadily and we regularly receive positive feedback from participating parents and students about improved school results. We made one evaluation among the group who helps out in 2012. They had several ideas to make the study support better that we have used to change things for the better. We want to develop “läxhjälpen” for specific schools’ students in their own schools’ premises during the evenings. In this way we could contribute with feedback to teachers and help to develop good relationships between students/parents and teachers that would benefit the collaboration between the school and the parent.


Lessons learned

The organisation faced several problems that were addressed, namely:

1 -  Find someone who could be responsible for organization in Tensta

 2 -  Finding qualified volunteers and make the schedule for each time.

 3 -  Motivating parents to come along with their child.

4 -  Find suitable places to meet in and where our things could be stored between the occasions.

5 -  We want to expand and have a closer cooperation with certain schools around certain pupils and students


The organisation addressed these challenges as follows:  

 1 – The organisation found an interested retired woman with administration skills.

 2 -  Working together with the volunteer bureau and advertising in different spots where Swedes live.

3 -  A very motivated father living in Tensta.

4 -  Cooperation with SFI-school and Spånga-Tensta community to find good spots to be in.

5 -  Joining PREVENT network.

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Target group of good practice:

Policy makers



Related links:

YouTube channel of IB


Andreas Bjuner


International Acquaintances (Internationella Bekantskaper, IB)

Institution Website:

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