Lappeenranta would like to offer Russian language at school as alternative to mandatory Swedish
At least three communities want to offer schoolchildren courses in Russian as an alternative to mandatory Swedish. A number of communities in the east of Finland are saying that a more widespread knowledge of Russian would be more useful in locally than Swedish, which is Finland’s second official language.
The City Board of Lappeenranta in the southeast of Finland decided on Monday that the city would apply to the Ministry of Education for permission to increase choice in language teaching on an experimental basis.
Under the proposal, pupils in the seventh grade would be allowed to choose if they want to learn Swedish or Russian. Those choosing Russian would be offered the possibility to study Swedish from the eighth grade.
The aim is to increase general knowledge of Russian in areas near the Russian border. Studying Russian has not always been possible in every comprehensive school in Lappeenranta, because there have not always been enough pupils wanting to study a second foreign language.
Two other eastern communities, Imatra and Tohmajärvi, have also decided to apply for permission for such an experiment. Jussi Virsunen, director of education for the City of Imatra says that seven municipalities have expressed interest in the matter.
Savonlinna and Mikkkeli have taken a positive view, and both Pieksämäki and Varkaus are considering such a move.
Tohmajärvi has applied twice for special permission, but has been rejected by the ministry of Education. The issue is politically sensitive, as it would be seen to chip away at the status of Swedish.
“In our case this is about an everyday need, and not language policy”, Virsunen says.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Hooray for voluntary Swedish! (11.1.2011)
Debate in media and online on status of Swedish language remains polarised (14.1.2011)
COMMENTARY: Tourism needs are an inadequate reason to make Russian a compulsory school subject in Eastern Finland (11.1.2011)
Teaching of Russian is increasing in schools in Eastern Finland (25.8.2010)