Evaluation of liberal adult education (folkbildning) initiatives for asylum seekers and foreign-born women (2020:2)
In the autumn 2015, a very large number of individuals migrated to Sweden. Hence additional and more effective initiatives were needed to receive asylum seekers and assist new arrivals to establish themselves in society.
The Swedish Government decided to contribute with the central government's financial support to three new national liberal adult education initiatives in response to new societal needs. The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has been commissioned by the Swedish Government to evaluate these liberal adult education initiatives to improve civic skills and general education. Two of the initiatives, "Swedish From Day One" (Svenska från dag ett) and "Everyday Swedish" (Vardagssvenska), are aimed specifically at asylum seekers. They are intended to provide meaningful activities during the asylum period. In addition, these measures are intended to help those who have been granted a residence permit to more quickly establish themselves in work and in social life in Sweden. The third initiative is called Outreach and Motivational Initiatives by Adult Education Institutions (Uppsökande och motiverande studieförbundsinsatser, UMSI), and is aimed at foreign-born women who, for various reasons, neither participate in education nor work. The purpose of UMSI is to guide participants in realising educational opportunities, for the purpose of increasing the participants' chances of getting a job.
The distribution of the central government's financial support does not fully respond to demand and needs
The Swedish Government has allocated some 650 million SEK for the three initiatives during the years 2016 to 2018. Statskontoret's evaluation has shown that there is an imbalance in the resources distribution system and that funds allocated do not cover either asylum seekers' demand or needs. Several adult education institutions take in more participants than they receive funding for. Several folkhögskolor (independent adult education schools) have queues of asylum seekers who have expressed a desire to participate in the initiatives. However, these schools do not have the financial resources to accept these individuals. At the same time, in other locations, the places are filled by asylum seekers who participate in the initiatives multiple times.
The participants often participate in several of the programmes, jumping around from one organiser to another
The organisers of Swedish From Day One and Everyday Swedish hold the view that the two programmes complement each other, rather than addressing various parts of the target audience. The organisers also merge the initiatives together, in order to be able to offer the participants more education/training. It also occurs that organisers conduct more activities than they have been compensated for, in order to give the participants more education/training. Both the asylum seeker participants and those who participate in UMSI often participate in the programmes several times. The asylum seekers also jump from organiser to organiser in order to get more education.
Four out of ten asylum seekers have participated in the initiatives, however organisers have found it difficult to reach some parts of the target group
Almost four out of ten asylum seekers have participated in Swedish From Day One and Everyday Swedish in 2018. Women are over-represented in the initiatives regarding the target group of asylum seekers. Approximately one-half of the participants have a very low level of education. However the organisers of the initiatives for asylum seekers have difficulty reaching asylum seekers who are living in their own homes, as well as asylum seekers who are not already motivated to engage in educational activities.
UMSI has had difficulty reaching the correct target group, primarily due to organisers not working directly with outreach efforts
The organisers of UMSI have found it difficult to actually reach the target group which has been given priority by Folkbildningsrådet, the Swedish National Council of Adult Education. This target group consists of foreign-born women who only have had short-term education and women who do not already have any contact with relevant societal actors. This is partly due to the fact that recruitment to UMSI has not been done by direct outreach.
Liberal adult education contributes to flexible initiatives based on the needs, desires and interests of the participants
The contents and design of the three initiatives are largely based on what the participants have expressed desires and needs for. The initiatives aim to strengthen the participants' knowledge of Swedish language and of Swedish society. The initiatives thus contribute to creating the preconditions for achieving the objectives of the initiatives.
According to research, taking individuals' needs and prerequisites into consideration in integration programs strengthens the preconditions for individuals to be able to establish themselves in working and social life. Representatives for the initiatives also highlight the importance of mixed target groups, engaged teachers and highly educational course materials as success factors for the participants' learning experiences. However, the organisers have only had the opportunity to some degree to adapt the education/training which they offer so that these recurring success factors are addressed. UMSI differentiates itself and stands out from other initiatives, due to the fact that they have more elements of motivational work and individual guidance to strengthen the women's self-confidence and personal development. Everyday Swedish is the most formalised of the three initiatives assessed.
Swedish From Day One and Everyday Swedish contribute to meaningful employment and faster throughput
Statskontoret has made the assessment that the Swedish From Day One and Everyday Swedish initiatives achieve their goals in an overall sense. According to the organisers, the initiatives contribute primarily to equipping the participants for further studies in Swedish for Immigrants (SFI). The organisers also say that it is common for the participants to be placed at a higher SFI level than if they had not participated in the previous initiatives. On the other hand, however, according to the organisers the participants are not prepared to the same extent for work by the initiatives as they are for continued education. The initiatives do also contribute to meaningful gainful employment for asylum seekers. The asylum seekers are also very satisfied with the initiatives, but demand more hours for study and opportunities for further advanced studies.
There is no longitudinal register data on the participants, which makes it difficult to assess the progression of the participants. It is also unclear how much the situation would have improved for the target group if the special initiatives and resources had not been available. This is because many asylum seekers who participate in the initiatives are in any case highly study-motivated. We also question whether the objectives of the initiatives are set too low. It would be quite remarkable if an educational initiative would not contribute to meaningful gainful employment at all, nor accelerate future establishment in working life and social life.
Most importantly, UMSI contributes to breaking the syndrome of women's exclusion
It is doubtful whether or not UMSI achieves its purpose--that is, whether participation actually leads to some progression for the participants concerning the initiation of other educational opportunities or heightened possibilities to obtain gainful employment. The step to becoming established is lengthy for most of the women in the target group, and it is even more lengthy also for the more study-motivated asylum seekers included in the target group for the other initiatives evaluated.
Even though Statskontoret is of the opinion that UMSI only achieves its purposes to a limited extent, we believe that the initiative nevertheless still plays an important role for women. This is due to the fact that it contributes to strengthening the women's self-confidence, independence and social networks outside of the home. Therefore the initiatives are important to break women's exclusion and to achieve policy goals in terms of gender equality. At the same time, the UMSI initiative has only been in existence since 2018, and it is still too early to say with any confidence how things are working out for the women after they have participated in the programme.
The women who have participated in the initiatives are nevertheless grateful that they have been given the opportunity to get outside of their homes, and have stated that the initiatives have strengthened their self-confidence and independence. Therefore it can be concluded that the initiatives are an important step towards breaking women's exclusion.
Significant but limited initiatives
Statskontoret's evaluation shows that the contents and design of the three initiatives are appropriate for their purposes, and that the initiatives have a significant importance for the target groups. However the initiatives have only reached certain parts of the target groups and the time spent in the initiatives by participants is also limited. Therefore the results of the initiatives have also been limited.
The participants in UMSI also need more societally and individually adapted guidance and matching support in order to find a way out of their exclusion and for the initiatives to achieve their purpose. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the participants receive sufficient time participating in the initiatives and that those working with the target group have the prerequisites necessary to provide the target group with the social and motivational support they are in need of. Perhaps other parties may be more suited to the task. This is especially important to consider for those women who are quite distanced from the educational and labour market, the target group that the Swedish National Council of Adult Education has prioritised for the initiatives. It is also required that other parties take greater responsibility for supporting liberal adult education in their efforts to reach and support the target groups for more direct outreach efforts to reach the most vulnerable women.
The initiatives contribute to achieving the state's objectives for the central government's financial support to liberal adult education
The initiatives help to achieve the goals of the central government's financial support to liberal adult education. A large part of the initiatives concerns issues of democracy and democratic values and culture, and these programmes are an important venue for integration and social exchanges. The initiatives also contribute to the development of language and knowledge and to include and integrate new target groups in liberal adult education programmes. However, we do question whether the aims of the central government's financial support to liberal adult education efforts have any stronger directive effect on liberal adult education writ large, due to the fact that liberal adult education initiatives are not specifically directed at goals related to the overall aims of government financing in the policy domain. It is our view that the overall goals of state financing to liberal adult education are not related to more specific operational goals for the initiatives as such. Instead, these goals are an integral part of the working methods of liberal adult education – in other words, the goals for state support to liberal adult education can be perceived as a description of what the liberal adult education system actually does, rather than as benchmarks for controlling the goals for what is done.
The initiatives also contribute to the policy goals related to gender equality, albeit to a limited extent
Women are over-represented among the participants in the initiatives for asylum seekers, in the potential target group. Women may also have special needs for such initiatives, due to that in general foreign-born women experience more difficulty than foreign-born men to establish themselves in the labour market.
The organisers of the three initiatives have also adapted their educational efforts so that parents of small children can participate. A common feature of the educational programme has also consisted in systematic conversations and discussions about norms regarding responsibility for the home and gainful employment. In the long term, this can contribute to a more even distribution of unpaid household work and social care in the home.
The initiatives also contribute to shortening the participants' paths to acquiring gainful employment and/or educational opportunities, which is an important contribution to achieving the goal of gender equality in financial terms. At the same time, the participants' time spent in the initiatives has generally been rather brief, which means that the initiatives have only contributed to the policy goals related to gender equality to a limited extent.