From Iceland — Office Skills for Foreigners

Office Skills for Foreigners

Published June 20, 2008

Office Skills for Foreigners
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Since 2006, Menntaskólinn í Kópavogi (MK) has been offering a course in Office Skills for students over the age of 20 who don’t speak fluent Icelandic.
The course consists of subjects in Book-keeping, Computer Studies and Icelandic taught in the first two semesters, and Book-keeping, Marketing, Business English, Culture and History of Iceland, Commercial Law, Maths and Icelandic in the final two.

The course is primarily taught in Icelandic so a basic knowledge of the language is necessary. “We try to teach as much as possible in Icelandic – basic Icelandic – and support this with English or which ever language we can,” Inga Karlsdóttir the program’s director says.

Karlsdóttir, who is also an Icelandic teacher of many years, first got the idea to hold a course in Office Skills about 20 years ago. “We started the course around 16 years ago but later realised that it would be good to also have a course for foreigners,” Karlsdóttir explains. According to Karlsdóttir, since its inception in 2006 the course for foreigners has seen increasing enrolments.
The business units of the course are identical to those taught to fluent Icelandic speaking students, but because more time is spent on improving students’ language skills, it takes students four semesters, rather than two, to complete the entire course. Students have the option, though, of simply completing two semesters and receiving a diploma, rather than graduating with the full qualification.

The course aims to give students some experience in the Icelandic education system and, more importantly, an Icelandic qualification. “Some foreigners have a lot of knowledge and education but looking for a job doesn’t always go so well ― sometimes it’s the language, other times it’s the education. They may have degrees from foreign countries but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are accepted here and it takes a while for them to be translated. So, I thought ‘why not have them come into the Icelandic school system so they can say they have both experience in the Icelandic system as well as their degrees from abroad,’” Karlsdóttir says. And for one student this resulted in direct employment. “One company rang the school and specifically asked to hire someone who had completed the course,” Karlsdóttir says.
According to Karlsdóttir, students mainly enrol in the course on their own initiative, but some are sent by their employer. “They [employers] may say ‘I have a lady cleaning whom I know has a good education from home and I’m willing to pay for her to go on this course,’” she says.  And this was the case with one woman, who was working as a cleaner, and who has been enrolled by her employer for the next semester. The course runs in the evenings from 17:30 to 20:30 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, allowing students to attend after they have finished work.
Karlsdóttir says that the course is unique in that it offers students a combination of Icelandic and specialist skills without the commitment of university. “We are the only school who does this – there is university and there are language schools but this is something in between,” she explains.

The next course begins in autumn. For more information visit or contact Inga Karlsdóttir at

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