Finnish children have traditionally begun learning a foreign language – most typically English – in the third grade, just as they have passed the optimal age for language learning, highlights Sanni Grahn-Laasonen (NCP), the Minister of Education.
This, she tells, is the primary reason why all first-graders will start learning a foreign language as of the spring term of 2020.
Grahn-Laasonen admitted in a press conference earlier this week that the decision can be interpreted as an indication that the core curriculum has been designed incorrectly in regards to language teaching for decades. “We know a lot more about the sensitive periods of children to learn new things today,” she explained.
The decision to lower the starting age for foreign language learning may also lead to unusual situations in primary schools, as second-graders would be the only pupils not learning a foreign language in the spring of 2020. They will start foreign language learning after moving on to the third grade the following autumn.
“If a municipality wants at this point to also offer this possibility to second-graders, that’s also possible. It’s already possible because many municipalities, including Helsinki, already offer early language teaching,” commented Grahn-Laasonen.
The City of Helsinki decided roughly a year ago that all pupils will begin foreign language learning in the first grade as of the upcoming autumn.
Grahn-Laasonen viewed that large and well-off municipalities have invested in early foreign language teaching in an attempt to appeal to families with children, adding that the nationwide reform is consequently also crucial for the equality and non-discrimination of education.
The annual costs of the reform are estimated to rise to 12 million euros as soon as all primary school pupils have begun foreign language learning in the autumn term of 2020.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Mikko Stig – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi