MP talk

Pia Kauma is a first-term Member of Parliament for the National Coalition Party from Espoo and a member of Parliament’s Commerce Committee and Constitutional Law Committee as well as a member of the City Board of Espoo.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.


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