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Schools to teach foreign language to all first graders

27 Mar 2019, 20:09 ( 2 Months ago) | updated: 27 Mar 2019, 20:17 ( 2 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Photo Source: VisitFinland.

Finland will start providing foreign language teaching to all first graders in autumn 2019, aiming to reduce inequalities in language provision and language learning across the country.

Currently, teaching for the first foreign language begins in the third grade in Finland.

The legislative amendment is based on a two-year pilot project for early language teaching, aiming to diversify language learning to give children opportunities to learn other foreign languages in addition to English, reported a Finnish language daily Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday.

About 100 municipalities and more than 30,000 pupils have participated in the project, which was implemented in 2017 and 2018.

Minna Polvinen, senior ministerial adviser at the Ministry of Education and Culture, told the daily that the project was very successful, and according to the feedback, this was exactly what language teaching needs.

 A report published by the Finnish National Agency for Education in February this year showed that presently 80 percent of pupils in basic education (grades 1-9) learn one foreign language, which is usually English, in addition to the country's two official languages Finnish or Swedish.

The agency claimed that the decline in the language skills among Finns has become a cause for concern.

Outi Verkama, coordinator of Tampere City's language-rich project, said that in the period of the project, every child in the first or second grade in Tampere had a chance to choose one of different foreign languages, such as English, German, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese, during a school year. Children in Helsinki could also learn Northern Sami or Estonian.

Director of basic Education at the City of Helsinki Outi Salo told Helsingin Sanomat that teachers have been trained since last spring. Teaching is carried out functionally and playfully, using mostly spoken language, because at the beginning of the first class, some students are still unable to read.

"We want Multi-skilled talents to work together, so it would be very important to have various language skills for future employees. It may be a big deal to know something other than English," Salo was quoted as saying.