Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Riitta Pyykkö hands over report to Minister

Language studies may begin in 1st grade in future

14 Dec 2017, 00:01 ( 14 Dec, 2017) | updated: 14 Dec 2017, 13:30 ( 14 Dec, 2017)

DF Report
Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen. File Photo Finnish government by Sakari Piippo.

Vice Rector Professor Riitta Pyykkö on Wednesday submitted a report on the current state and development needs of Finland’s language reserve to Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.

The report covers the entire Finnish education system and proposes an array of measures that should be taken to develop Finnish people’s language skills so that they would meet the future needs, said an official press release .

“Language learning should be started earlier, in the first grade at the latest and preferably already in early childhood education and care and pre-primary education, as Professor Pyykkö proposes,” said Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.

She appreciated the municipalities for taking a permanent decision to start teaching languages earlier.

“The national experiments launched during this government term have supported these decisions. We should encourage children and young people to study many languages, as it opens doors and increases internationality. I extend my warmest thanks to Professor Riitta Pyykkö and others who took part in drawing up the report for the valuable work,”  Grahn-Laasonen said.

The Minister said that the report provided direction for the development of language instruction in Finland. It is important to examine the continuum of language learning over all levels of education system and to ensure that the needs of teacher training are also taken into consideration in the national policies, the minister added.

 “Finland must have a diverse language reserve to be able to succeed in the global world. We should identify what kind of language skills people in Finland have and ensure that people have possibilities to develop their skills throughout their lives. Language skills are a key to different cultures and mutual understanding. I would like to thank the Ministry for this interesting challenge. It has been a pleasure and honour to work with this important report which will serve as a basis for the preparation of a national language strategy,” said Professor Riitta Pyykkö, Vice Rector of the University of Turku.

Language reserve refers to citizens’ language proficiency in its entirety at national level: citizens’ language skills, language proficiency produced by the formal education system and the planning of language instruction.

The report presents a number of measures and proposals to achieve the desired state of affairs, such as: Language studies would in future begin in the spring term of the first grade at the latest. As a rule, pupils would be advised to choose a language other than English as the A1 language, the voluntary A2 language, primarily English, would begin one year earlier than at the moment, i.e. in the third grade, the structure of general upper secondary education would be developed in a way that would enable flexible, long-term and diverse language studies by taking advantage of cross-curricular multidisciplinary modules, an oral skills test would be included in the tests of foreign languages and the second domestic language in the matriculation examination, educational institutions would offer a variety of language learning paths at different levels of education: language clubs, gamification and other possibilities enabled by digital applications, the Government Decree on University Degrees would be amended so that completion of any university degree would in future require students to demonstrate proficiency in at least two foreign languages.

Flexible models for the acquisition and demonstration of language proficiency would be jointly developed by universities, general upper secondary schools and liberal adult education etc.

According to the report, Finland’s language reserve is at the moment under conflicting pressures: fewer languages are being studied and proficiency in foreign languages means ever more often proficiency in English only. At the same time, international cooperation sets new requirements for language skills as the economic focus has moved away from Europe, for example.

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