THIS AUTUMN, parliament will make a decision on a citizens’ initiative on making Swedish an optional subject for Finnish-speaking pupils.
Judging by online quizzes for electoral candidates, one could be forgiven for believing that the initiative will find a large number of advocates among MPs. Despite this, it is unlikely that the proposal will pass. The Education and Culture Committee will decide whether it will draw up a report on the matter, which would then be subjected to a vote in parliament’s plenary session. Constitutional statutes, if not party discipline, are likely to prove a stumbling block to the passing of the initiative.
We in Finland lack the kind of tradition in political debate that is typical of for example Britain, with analytical discussion here often deteriorating to the level of accusations and juxtapositions. And that has been the case here as well. The opponents of compulsory Swedish education have been labelled as parochial populists while its supporters claim to have a deeper understanding of our bilingual cultural heritage. Swedish-speakers are naturally fighting in their own corner and some politicians step back from committing themselves because voicing an unwelcome opinion might lose them the Swedish-speaking vote.
I am in favour of making learning Swedish optional on certain conditions. Before my parliamentary career, I worked in international commerce and it was only very rarely that Swedish skills came in handy. Instead of a marginal language spoken by a small number of people, children should be taught global languages, such as Chinese and Spanish. I spent my childhood in eastern Finland where it was exceptional to hear Swedish spoken outside the classroom. Russian, however, was a different story.
Only a fraction of the articles are available to public, please subscribe to be able to read whole article on the digital paper.
Please check our subscription periods and prices from here.
Read Helsinki Times with a subscriber code
Helsinki Times can be read with a subscriber code provided by the publisher or subscription office.
If you have received a subscriber code from the Helsinki Times, you may attach it to your Lehtiluukku user account to gain free access to Helsinki Times. The same subscriber code is valid for iPad and iPhone Helsinki Times' application.
Also the Android App is downloadable from Google play.