Bussing emerges as integration tactic

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Several Norwegian politicians have begun evaluating whether students from immigrant families should be sent by bus to other schools where they may have a better chance of learning Norwegian. They worry that the schools where they live have too many non-Norwegian students, limiting integration.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend about integration efforts in the city of Århus in Denmark. It no longer allows any school to have more than 20 percent of its students needing special language skills, and sends immigrant students by bus to other schools to dilute concentration.

A proposal to bus students from one area of Oslo, for example, to another has immediately sparked debate and opposition, just like bussing did in many states in the US back in the 1960s and ’70s. 

In this case, though, there’s no proposal to bus Norwegian students to schools where there are large concentrations of non-Norwegian students. Rather, the politicians seem to be weighing the possibility of only offering immigrant parents the option of bussing their children to schools where they may have a better chance of improving their reading and writing skills in Norwegian.

“Groruddalen and Søndre Nordstrand (in Oslo) are two areas that come to mind (because of their large immigrant populations), but we must also look at the situation in the inner city,” Heikki Holmås of the Socialist Left (SV) party, who heads the Parliament’s committee on local governments, told Aftenposten.

Jan Bøhler, leader of the Labour Party’s Oslo chapter, and Audun Lysbakken, government minister in charge of integration issues, are both open to a bussing proposal, and Holmås wants to start a pilot project next fall. He said bussing could also be used in Bergen, Drammen and some cities in Østfold County.

Oslo city government officials, however, flatly reject the idea. Torger Ødegaard of the Conservative Party, in charge of Oslo schools, called it “uaktuelt (of no interest) as long as the Conservatives are running the city.”

He said that if such a program were to be used, ethnic Norwegian students from Finnmark in northern Norway and Aust-Agder in southern Norway (where reading and writing test scores have been low) should be bussed to Oslo (where they’re much higher).

Another top politician, Knut Even Lindsjørn, said “we don’t want a radical reorganization of our school structure based on ethnicity.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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