Finland has two official languages; Finnish and Swedish. It is compulsory for all school students to study the other domestic language; Finnish in Swedish-speaking schools, Swedish for the Finnish-speakers. However, since 2005 it has been possible not to chose to take the other domestic language as part of the end of high school examination.
This year, around 13 600 Finnish speaking students have decided they will take Swedish as part of their school graduation exam. That’s a massive decline of nearly 15 % compared with last year. Since the 2005 reform, around a third of all Finnish-speaking school graduation exam takers have chosen not to take Swedish.
This is a worrying trend. In order to be able to offer services to Swedish speakers, the government and authorities need speakers of Swedish. It may be easy to choose not to take it at the time; but what happens later in life when you decide you want to work for the state administration, the police etc?
There are reports that show that the quality of Swedish teaching in many Finnish speaking schools is poor and uninspiring. Swedish needs to be made more interesting and attractive to Finnish speaking students – from an early age – so that the enjoy learning the language. Right now, many may well choose not to take it because of the poor teaching and thought that it might be easier for them to get a better grade in something else. The government needs to take measures to give more funding to Swedish as a school subject and improve the teaching quality. Perhaps a more intensive programme of cooperation could be opened up between Finnish and Swedish speaking schools in this country – and perhaps also Sweden.