Education for Equity

The relevance of social codes for social inclusion of newly arrived children and young people in Swedish society in a school context

Social codes exist wherever people interact with each other and vary between groups. In various social contexts there are implicit rules governing acceptable behaviour. People use both conscious and subconscious signals to communicate and these signals are socially and culturally bound. Therefore, social codes are also culturally bound, but how, when and where are they learnt?

The aim of this EFE subproject is to raise the question of “the relevance of social codes for inclusion of newly arrived children and young people in Swedish society in a school context”, and to investigate and describe “good practices” for integration.   

Questions in focus

  • What is meant by “cracking the social code” and what is meant by “making hidden codes visible”? 
  • What tools, good practices, models and principles exist that make pupils and the school staff in a school context aware of the importance of social codes for the inclusion process of newly arrived children? 
  • How can schools work with inclusion of newly arrived children in sustainable and continuous way? 
  • How can the tools, good practices, models and principles be applied to different levels in a school environment? 

Theoretical starting points

Definition of the following concepts: communication – inclusion – social codes.

The connection between communication, inclusion and social codes and the relationship between them, with a focus on inclusion of newly arrived in Swedish society.  


Social codes exist in all social contexts. In the interaction between people, these codes are constantly being reproduced to create a sense of community, but sometimes also by so knowing about and being aware of the social codes in a new social context is important for successful socialization. When pupils understand social codes, including when and how they are followed, they gain greater freedom. This will increase the space in which they can interact and increases the opportunities for inclusion in various other situations outside the school arena. If newly arrived students are introduced early to the social codes in their new social contexts, the possibilities for inclusion, participation and acceptance will increase. How newly arrived children gain access to other areas of Swedish society strongly depends on how they are treated and if and how they are able to enter various social spheres in school. If newly arrived children are noticed, accepted and respected in school from the start, they can develop self-­‐esteem and also be a part of the process to create new social codes since these are dynamic and keep changing.

Social codes express both how democratic rules and norms create freedom and room for development, as well as room for strengthening or consolidating already existing visible and invisible power structures. Social codes are closely connected with the development of democracy. If newly arrived children are truly included early, they have a better chance of becoming democratic players, not only in school, but in all layers of society.

Methods and outlines

  • A research overview with focus on theories concerning social codes, communication and inclusion
  • Test of hypotheses with empirical studies of tools and models used for working with social codes in an upper secondary school in Uppsala, our silent partner
  • In-­‐depth interviews with the head master, teachers and a group of newly arrived children
  • Analysis of interview material and data from empirical studies
  • Dissemination of results through an article, lecture and work shop/seminar about social codes

Implementation of the project

  • Phase 1 (April 2016): Literature study and the construction of a model for how to work with social codes
  • Phase 2 (May 2016): In-­‐depth interviews with selected teachers and semi-­structured interviews with a number of newly arrived children
  • Phase 3 (September 2016): In-­‐depth interviews with a number of newly arrived children, members of the school team and head master
  • Phase 4: Dissemination of results through an article and a course or seminar focusing on the inclusion of newly arrived children