Arbis launches a new basic education programme for adults

This autumn, Arbis is starting a new basic education programme aimed at both Finns and immigrants over the age of 17. At the same time, the range of Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) courses is expanding.
Lektion i klassrum på Arbis.
Photo: Maria Lindh

The major educational news for the autumn is that Arbis will now offer basic education for adults. This programme is intended for individuals who do not have any qualifications from comprehensive school.

"It can be Finns or immigrants participating," says Moa Thors, principal of Arbis.
The goal of this new programme is to obtain a final qualification from basic education, where students will not only learn Swedish but all subjects.

According to Thors, interest in such education has increased in recent years.

"There are many who are not receiving a final qualification and have been directed to Hux education (the new tenth grade), but they don't really belong there.

"Participants in the basic education programme at Arbis must be at least 17 years old, but there is no upper age limit. Everyone is welcome.

"This means the education needs to be highly tailored, but I also see synergies with SFI teaching because the curricula overlap," says Thors.

For many, Arbis becomes their first network

SFI, i.e., Swedish for Immigrants, has been offered at Arbis since 2012. This autumn, two beginner groups and a new group for individuals outside the workforce are starting for the first time.

The increased number of SFI courses aligns with the new integration law and the City of Helsinki's strategy focusing on individuals outside the workforce.

"For many, Arbis becomes their first network in Finland. Participants in SFI courses support each other," says educational planner Tina Romberg.

When she started working at Arbis in 2019, there were about 30–35 people taking SFI courses; now there are already 80, and this number is expected to increase further. This is a result of Arbis' efforts to make it more known that integration can happen in Swedish.

"We're not just making the option known to immigrants but also to authorities and information services that can disseminate the information further," says Moa Thors.

Making Swedish visible

According to Tina Romberg, immigrants rarely even hear that Finland is a bilingual country and that one can study and integrate in both Swedish and Finnish.

"Of course, not everyone can study in Swedish, but everyone should have the opportunity to know about it," says Romberg.

Both she and Moa Thors emphasise that Finnish is also important. Therefore, Arbis also offers Finnish for SFI groups.

Challenges often revolve around what happens after completing SFI courses. Students need to find internships that can offer practice in Swedish—both to practice the language and to enter the workforce in Finland.

Although the only requirement from internships is that they should be able to provide guidance in Swedish, it poses some challenges for both students and Arbis, which assists with internship placements. According to Romberg, there is much talk about Swedish integration in the Swedish-speaking Finnish community, but many organisations are still not ready to host interns.

"How can we, with a clear conscience, say 'come here and integrate in Swedish' if there's nothing afterward? Many entities do nothing or very little when it comes down to accepting immigrants into their own workplaces," says Romberg.

Arbis is a safe place

In addition to SFI courses, Arbis also offers other study programmes for immigrants. For example, this autumn, a group of Spanish early childhood educators will come twice a week to learn Swedish at Arbis after studying the language for six months in Spain.

"They will arrive in August and will immediately be employed at Swedish-language daycare centers, but they will continue studying Swedish at Arbis," says Moa Thors.

Arbis has previous experience in educating Ukrainian educators in Swedish, which has resulted in good outcomes. For instance, a former Ukrainian student has stopped working in daycare and started studying to become a healthcare assistant at Axxell.

"The better we take care of people and show them the opportunities, the better they can build a home here for themselves," says Tina Romberg.

"The community at Arbis is a step into Finnish culture," adds Moa Thors.

And for those lacking a comprehensive school certificate, the new basic education programme provides a second chance.

"Someone lacking a comprehensive school certificate might struggle with confidence, but we want to show that Arbis is a safe place. Here, you can succeed," says Romberg.

Text by Michaela von Kügelgen