Working group says that pupils in basic education should begin to study Swedish earlier
A special state subsidy should be allocated to the teaching of the voluntary A-Swedish
Pupils in comprehensive school should begin to study Swedish earlier, while the teaching of the second national language should be extended.
This would improve the quality of language education in Swedish, which is why institutes of higher education would no longer have to patch up deficiencies in Swedish skills.
These are the central conclusions of a working group that was appointed to assess the extent and arrangements of the teaching of Swedish at different educational levels.
The working group presented its report to Minister of Education Jukka Gustafsson (SDP) on Monday.
Particularly in vocational schools, the teaching and learning of Swedish has become rather minimal.
When it comes to upper secondary schools, the number of students opting to take the Swedish test in the matriculation examinations has declined.
After the structural reform of the matriculation exams, the test in the second national language was made optional.
Compulsory studies in the second official language start on the 7th grade (Swedish as the B-language), unless the language has been chosen as the A-language.
About one per cent of pupils have chosen Swedish as the compulsory A1 language, starting in the third grade.
Slightly more than seven per cent of pupils have taken Swedish as the voluntary A2 language, starting in the fourth or fifth grade.
The working group suggests that a special state subsidy should be allocated to the teaching of the voluntary A-Swedish.
However, another working group focusing on curricula suggested that such a subsidy should be granted only for the teaching of the so-called rare languages.
According to Gustafsson, the issue is still being negotiated.
Today, the compulsory studies in Swedish that start in the 7th grade comprise six weekly lessons, which in practice means two hours per week over a period of three years.
The scope of the teaching of Swedish has been reduced by half compared with the 1970s.
In the working group’s view, it should be possible to expand the teaching and learning of Swedish in local level language programmes already in comprehensive school.
It should also be possible to combine the contents of the Swedish language and culture with other subjects.
Pupils who have participated in the so-called language immersion at the early language teaching level should be able to continue it in comprehensive school.
With reference to immigrants, the working group proposes that it should be possible to start studying Swedish even as late as the upper secondary school phase.
The entire subject of Swedish in schools, and particularly the mandatory aspects of the teaching, has become something of a hot potato in recent years, with the adherents of the nationalist Finns Party (the former True Finns) in particular arguing that it is an ancient relic that should be done away with.
The matter became something of an election issue in 2011, fuelled in part also by geography and by the social and cultural fallout from the collapse of the Soviet Union: some municipalities in the east of Finland would like to offer schoolchildren courses in Russian on an experimental basis.
The Russian language is regarded as being of conspicuously greater value than Swedish for towns and cities near the eastern border, where tourism from Russia is a significant component in the local economy.
Language war is heating up in Finland (1.4.2011)
Ministry of Education and Culture: Functional Swedish – Starting Points for Developing the Teaching of Swedish as the Second National Language of Finland
Ministry of Education and Culture: Education System in Finland