a teacher and a male and a female student by a whiteboard

Successful or humiliated? Experiences of upper secondary school are complex among students who are newly arrived

Many newly arrived students feel excluded in different ways in upper secondary school. This is shown in a new study with the aim of attaining new knowledge about interculturalism, ethnicity, and multilingualism in the upper secondary school context.

In a new study, researchers Hennie Kesak and Goran Basic at Linnaeus University have investigated the relationship between newly arrived students and teachers and upper secondary schools. They have studied documents, observed during lessons, and interviewed 15 students who were newly arrived in Sweden.

The goal has been to attain new knowledge about interculturalism, ethnicity and multilingualism in upper secondary school. An important purpose, as a quality review carried out by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate a few years ago showed that many upper secondary schools fail to meet the educational needs of newly arrived students. Likewise, that the students do not get the support and guidance they need.

“Our analysis shows that a distance relationship is created and recreated in the flow between the newly arrived students and the teachers’ institution. This is represented in writing by the schools in the form of course plans, time tables, tests, etcetera. It is also represented verbally, in contexts we have observed and in situations recounted by students”, says Goran Basic.

Different goals and requirements

In the article, the researchers highlight, among other things, a document that addresses two overarching objectives related to newly arrived students. One is the pedagogical objective and the other is to entrench the basic democratic values upon which Swedish society rests. Implicitly, they mean, bringing up the Swedish society in the document also means bringing up, for example, an Afghan, Syrian or Iranian society.

There are also demands on both the students and parents or guardians to follow rules that are not obvious to newly arrived, as they have just arrived in a country that is culturally unknown to them. In one document, for example, there appears a strong "we" (the school) and a weaker "you" who are expected to follow and respect the normative order.

Successful or humiliated

The students have different and variable social pedagogical identities. A newly arrived student can be represented as a committed and motivated and thus successful student, developing in the social pedagogical meaning. But also as a, for various reasons, humiliated, weary, excluded student.

Students can use ethnic markers when they talk about different situations in the classroom. The researchers' observations and interviews show that this creates an image of a humiliated self, by the student distancing himself from the teacher and comparing himself to more well-established students in a more normal class.

“This sense of victimhood that we encountered creates and recreates an image of a disadvantaged student. The effect of this is likely a negative impact on the aims of the upper secondary school to include and integrate newly arrived students into the school community and society at large”, Hennie Kesak says.

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