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Finally, a genuinely positive utterance from a member of the government regarding Swedish. Education minister Henna Virkkunen has suggested that the teaching of Swedish is started earlier in Finnish-speaking schools.
At the present time, most Finnish-speaking schools begin teaching Swedish in the seventh year of school, when pupils are already 13/14 years old. Virkkunen, in a newspaper interview with Keskisuomalainen, suggests that schools introduce the teaching of Swedish in the fifth year of school.
The Association of Teachers of Swedish has previously suggested that Finnish-speaking pupils start Swedish in year five and Virkkunen has now agreed that this is a sensible idea, accepting that languages are easiest learnt at younger ages. This is undoubtably true. The fifth year of school, whilst an improvement from today’s situation, is probably still later than ideal.
Swedish-speaking schools start teaching the Finnish language in the third year of school at the latest. Many start earlier than this.
Finland’s school curriculum mandates that all pupils must be taught “the other domestic language”, as the subject is officially known in schools, i.e. Swedish in Finnish-speaking schools, Finnish in Swedish-speaking schools.
Virkkunen is a member of the National Coalition (Kokoomus) party and her comments, coming in a Finnish-language newspaper and thus directed at a Finnish-speaking audience, should be welcomed warmly. Let’s hope she doesn’t restrict this matter to just words and enacts a curriculum reform at the earliest available opportunity.