Sweden: Outrage over language ban proposal

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Feb 3 18:47:27 UTC 2009

Outrage over language ban proposal
Published: 2 Feb 09 07:18 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.se/17298/20090202/

Elementary students in Sweden with foreign backgrounds should no
longer be allowed to study maths in their native languages, according
to a Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) working group.

"We are very skeptical toward the experiment taking place around
Sweden right now, with maths being taught in Arabic. The risk is that
it will worsen students' development of Swedish language skills," said
Christer Nylander, a Liberal Riksdag member and head of the party's
working group on education policy, to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD)

The proposal has drawn criticism from the Green Party, which wants to
give children and young people who come to Sweden from other countries
the right to learn both maths and English in their mother tongue.

"It's not only effective for teaching mathematics, but it's also been
shown to be effective for learning Swedish. The Liberal Party is going
against everything they stand for with this idiocy," Green Party
spokesperson Maria Wetterstrand told SvD.

"The goal still must be to have more students leave elementary school
with passing marks in maths, Swedish and English. There are no
rational grounds for taking a measure as coercive as a ban."

Nylander contends that research into the success of teaching subjects
in students' native language are inclusive, pointing to a study by the
European Forum on Migration Studies, carried out at the request of the
European Commission.

"It's not supported by international research that it results in
positive results in the subject," he said.

However Carla Jonsson, a researcher at the Centre for Research on
Bilingualism (Centrum för tvåspråkighetsforskning) at Stockholm
University, thinks the ban would not only prevent learning in
students' mother tongues, but that their knowledge of the subject and
of the Swedish language would also suffer.

"It would also send out the signal that minority languages aren't
worth anything and lead to students feeling a diminished desire to
learn Swedish," she told the newspaper.

The working group's proposal is set to be reviewed at the Liberal
Party's national meeting in November.

According to 2007 statistics from the National Education Agency
(Skolverket), more than 18,000 elementary school students in Sweden
receive lessons in Arabic, more than any other foreign language.
Second most common is Spanish, with 5,000 students being taught,
followed by Albanian, Bosnian, Somali and Persian.

Roughly 3,900 school children receive lessons in English, the seventh
most common language represented in the agency's statistics.


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