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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 12:39 EDT

Immigrant Youth Reject The School Integration Policy

February 14, 2012

Some call it ‘the immigrant corner’, the place in the school corridor that is reigned by loud immigrant boys. The students who hang out there seem to be eager to demonstrate their disinterest in schoolwork and disapproval of the adult view of integration. They are wondering why they have to be mixed with other students in school when the entire society is so segregated.

A new doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg looks at adolescents’ views of life in light of the value base of the school system.

Signild Risenfors, Lecturer at University West in Trollhättan, Sweden, followed four classes during their final year of upper secondary school. She spent time with the students in the classroom and during recess, interviewed them and asked them to write texts about their life philosophy. What she studied can be referred to as the students’ view of life. A person’s view of life comprises his or her values and ethics, general view of people and the world, and fundamental approach towards life.

Not discuss openly

Overall, Risenfors found that the students do agree with the school’s democratic values.

‘Yet at the same time, there are a number of sensitive issues that many students feel they can’t discuss openly in the classroom. Integration is one example. Others are feminism and corporal punishment, but also questions about what it’s like to be lonely or what forgiveness really means,’ she says.

‘You have to be politically correct, or your grades will suffer,’ as one student put it.

Arena for resistance

Religious discussions can lead to conflict. One student said: ‘You have to be careful when you talk about religious stuff. You don’t want to make your friends upset’.

Integration appears to be an important issue related to students’ views of life. In the thesis, Risenfors also describes other aspects of views of life. In the studied school, the immigrant corner is a place that is mentioned repeatedly when the students share their views of life. It is described as a place where they can express things they are not allowed to say in the classroom.

‘The immigrant corner is not only an arena for identity but also an arena for resistance against society’s integration policy,’ says Risenfors.

Credibility problem

The school personnel feel that the students misbehave in the immigrant corner and that it works against integration. They want to get rid of it and are trying to create alternatives. Students play loud Arabic, Indian or Bosnian music in the immigrant corner. They joke and laugh a lot. The immigrant boys who like to hang out there are loud and seem to make almost constant attempts to make their presence known.

‘The boys always take charge and set the agenda,’ says Risenfors.

The girls attract a lot of attention too, by singing and dancing. Those who are not interested in the schoolwork seem to be drawn to the immigrant corner. Immigrant students from high-status areas who want high grades prefer to go elsewhere.

Many ethnic Swedes are questioning the integration policy as well. They feel that the adult world loses its credibility for example by accepting that immigrants live in certain neighborhoods and ethnic Swedes in others.

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