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The Rise and Fall of Finnish Language-Education Policy: A Blueprint How to Bring about a Crisis

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The Rise and Fall of Finnish Language-Education Policy: A Blueprint How to Bring about a Crisis

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  1. The Rise and Fall of Finnish Language-Education Policy: A Blueprint How to Bring about a Crisis Sauli Takala Who Needs Languages? Micro and macro perspectivesas into language education policies University of Jyväskylä June 7-10, 2010

  2. CRISIS: • the turningpoint for betterorworse in a short-lived and usuallyseverediseaseorfever • an unstableorcrucialtimeotstate of affairs , esp. onewhoseoutcomewillmake a decisivedifference for betterorworse

  3. Do we have a crisis in our language education? • Undoubtedly - reasons to follow. • Several critical remarks voiced over a long period of time. Predictions of problems were subsequently corroborated. • Developments were easy to predict. Not to do so must have been due either to incompetence , indifference or a hidden agenda to weaken language education. • The worst is not over. • Difficult to reverse the trend.

  4. Language-of-instruction issue • Swedish replaced Latin as the language of instruction in the 1700s. • Finnish could be used to a limited extent together with Swedish • This small-scale bilingual education ceased in the 1880s • Henceforth the language of education of the school was to be either Swedish or Finnish

  5. Languages-in-education issue • Languages other than L1 were a prominent part of early years of organized secondary education • 1873 curriculum: 50% of all class time was devoted to foreign languages • 1883 curriculum : 35% • 1893; 35% • 1914: classical line – 38,5%, modern subjects (realia) line – 32% • 1941: lower secondary – 20%; upper secondary: language line – 41%, mathematics line – 26% • 1969 : upper secondary – mathematics and realia lines: 32%, language line 47% • Introduction of the comprehensive school started in 1970 and was implemented in the whole country ten years later

  6. Proportion (%) of language instruction in the pre-1970 lower secondary school and in the subsequent comprehensive scool

  7. Number of Lessons

  8. How many languages should there be in the compre-hensive school (first figure)/upper secondary school (second figure) (M-L Nikki , 1990-1991 Swedish should be optional/elective in the opinion of 77% of comprehensive school pupils, and the corresponding figures were 81% for upper secondary school students , 87% for parents and 86% for educational administrators.

  9. Is ”crisis” an exaggeration? • Golden period in the 1960s and 1970s: • Several important committees: major reforms proposed • All pupils started to study languages: 2 or 3 • Language study introduced in vocational education • Higher education: LSP taught by Language Centres • Matriculation Exam moved from translation to more comprehensive testing formats • Language proficiency started to improve in the population • General atmosphere: strong optimism, intensive development work, intensive in-service educatio.. • Now: obvious irresolution, lack of vision,helplessness, growing pessimism

  10. CRISIS: Whathashappened? • Need for plurilingualcompetencehasincreased – study of languageshasdecreased. • Level of required proficiency tends to increase – cuts in time allocation make this difficult or impossible. • Levels of proficiencyareprescribed for severalcontexts – in manycasestheycannotbereached, and certificatesarenotreliable. • Severalactions/decisionstakenbyseveralofficialagenciesover a long period of timehavetended to underminesupport for languagestudy. Public rhetoricsupportslanguagestudy, concreteactionsaremissing. • There is an association which has been and is working actively to undermine the teaching and learning of our national language Swedish.

  11. Advances and setbacks in language-in-education policy (1) • - Until 1960´s - in the dual school system the study of foreign languages was limited to the secondary school; less than half of the age group received language education • + since 1970 ´s – comprehensive school brought along the obligatory study of 2 FLs; a third language was optional: 1+2 > 1+3 • + end-of 1970s – Language-in-Education Committee proposal (1978/60); language planning at national, regional, municipal and school level; decentralisation starts gaining ground

  12. Advances and setbacks in language-in-education policy (2) • 1980’s –some gains but also clear losses • - Course-based upper secondary school: study of optional language (C/D, B2/B3) became optional for the long maths students; drastic drop in study and in the amount of optional matriculation language tests • + language education became a regular element in all vocational education • + language requirements in higher education became more uniform; Languages Centers gained a clear status; adult education received more attention

  13. Advances and setbacks in language-in-education policy (3) • + 1990´s – increased attention to needs of the world of work; Foreign Language Certificates (YKI) created; periodical & representative survey of Adult Education introduced a self-assessment of language proficiency • + 1990´s – legislation allowing immersion and CLIL in schools; CLIL expanded • - 2005 – test of Swedish/Finnish became optional in the Matriculation Examination; dramatic cut in test takers in Swedish (< 70% in 2010)

  14. Language Choices, A1, 3rd grade (%) 1975 1984 1994 1998 2002 2005 English 88,9 90,2 86,9 87,7 89,7 89.5 Swedish 2,7 8,1 3,1 2,0 1,5 1,1 Finnish 5,1 ? 4,6 4,8 5,3 5,,5 German 0,2 0,8 4,0 2,9 2,0 1,4 French 0,0 0,4 1,1 1,6 1,0 0,8 Russian 0,0 0,5 0.2 0,2 0,1 0,2 Sami 0,0 0,0 0,0 0,0

  15. Language Choices, A2, 5th grade (%) 1994 1998 2002 2005 English 9,6 10,2 8,8 8,3 Swedish 1,7 6,6 8,4 7,7 Finnish 0,5 0,5 0,2 0,3 German 4,1 16,2 12,3 8,6 French 0,9 3,1 3,3 2,9 Russian 0,1 0,5 0,3 0,3 Sami 0,1 0,0 0,1 0,0 Other 0,0 0,0 0,1 0,2

  16. Proportion (%) of students who studies the second foreign language in the upper secondary school, 1970- 2007

  17. Language Study at the end of Upper Sec. School, 2007 English 33 011 99,3% Swedish A 2 564 Swedish B1 27 091 Total 99,2% French A 733 French B2 1302 French B3 1605 Total 19,3% 9,3% 26,5% German A 2637 German B2 2482 German B3 2221 Total 33,2% 27.2% 37,5% Russian A 239 Russian B2 90 Russian B3 519 Total 5,6% 3,8% 6,9% Spanish A 6 B2 33 B3 1361 11,1% 6,3% 14,7%

  18. Number of test takers in the Matriculation Examination, 1998-2007

  19. ”Golden years” for optional languages in the light of the Matriculation Exam data • German 1973 – 86 10.000+ (top: 1982: 17.142) • French 1990 – 04 ~3000 (top: 1998: 4189) • Russian 1976 – 84 ~1500+ (top: 1984: 1867) • Latin 1970 – 74 ~1000+ (top: 1972: 1241) • Spanish: 1999-> ~ 700+ (top: 2007: 1153)

  20. Choice of courses (Upper sec school, 2006)

  21. Language education is based on the principles of lifelong learning, continuity of education, flexible modes of learning and equality. Language education adopts a functional approach according to which language competence is seen as the ability to act in a language use situation in a way which is appropriate linguistically, socially and culturally. Language education is a whole which comprises the mother tongues, foreign languages and minority languages without seeing them to be in competition to each other. This promotes both individual plurilingualism and societal multilingualism. It supports social and societal empowerment.

  22. The policy making and development concerning language-in-education is co-ordinated and professional and is based on the anticipation of future language competence needs and on relevant research. Learning outcomes and the impact of language education and related costs are evaluated systematically and comprehensively. Language education policy draws on an analysis the current national pool of linguistic resources and anticipates prospective language competence needs , among others, from the point of view of the world of work. (KIEPO, 37, 454-4559

  23. The Committee for European Languages and Cultures, a third major commission chaired by Jaakko Numminen, considered in its report in early 1991 that it is important that pupils and students are encouraged to fully utilize the opportunities that our educational system offers for obtaining a good and many-sided knowledge of foreign languages. It is equally important that foreign language teaching in our educational system is systematically developed, so that it can meet the increasing challenges. The Committee emphasized that Finland must be among the leading nations in foreign language teaching.

  24. The Committee for European Languages and Cultures, a third major commission chaired by Jaakko Numminen, considered in its report in early 1991 that it is important that pupils and students are encouraged to fully utilize the opportunities that our educational system offers for obtaining a good and many-sided knowledge of foreign languages. It is equally important that foreign language teaching in our educational system is systematically developed, so that it can meet the increasing challenges. The Committee emphasized that Finland must be among the leading nations in foreign language teaching.

  25. Outline for language-in-education policy options (1) • Building the national pool of language proficiency as much on elective choices as is the current practice is shortsighted policy. • Delegating as much decision-making to municipalities and individual pupils/students as is the case at the moment is also misguided policy. • Allowing the Matriculation Examination Board to continue using the current non-transparent grading system is a mistake by the Ministry of Education. Grades should be expressed in terms of the proficiency levels specified in the national curriculum (based on the Common European Framework of Reference).

  26. Outline for language-in-education policy options (2) • It is time to make a second foreign language compulsory again at least in the upper secondary school; thus the EU formula 1 +2 should be 2+2 in an officially bilingual country like Finland; all pupils/students must study and learn the other official language of the country at least to level B1. • It is time to give up the old belief that learning languages is difficult and that children and youngsters need special verbal ability to be able to learn many languages. Language learning becomes easier the more languages you know.

  27. Outline for language-in-education policy options (3) • For a good foundation of life-long language learning, the language-in-education policy should include, for all pupils/students, an introduction to a Germanic language, a Romance language and a Slavic language. The scope of this compulsory basic course does not need to be large; it could be expanded on a elective basis. The purpose of this language familiarization is also to raise awareness of similarities and differences between the three language families. This needs to be implemented by the end of the comprehensive school.

  28. Outline for language-in-education policy options (4) • There is a need for a clear starting point: Finland is bilingual at the societal leve but we need plurilingualism at the individual level. • Plurilingualism must be the starting point of all future language-in-education planning. • This means that all language instruction (including L1) must be closely integrated. • Language and content learning must also be increasingly integrated (immersion, CLIL)

  29. The rise of Finnish language-in-education policy was due to decision-making by the Parliament, the Cabinet and the Ministry of Education. This was supported by several committees and commissions with a broad representativeness. These commissions presented thorough analyses and comprehensive suggestions for concerted action. Language-in-education policy was an imporfant agenda on all eduational policy-making and educational planning. The decline has been caused by shortsighted deci-sions taken by successive Parliaments, Cabinets and Ministries of Education. The absence of represent-ative committees and commissions has contributed to making decision-making into largely administrative social engineering.

  30. This ”de-politicizing” of decision-making concerning languages-in-education must be reversed and it must against be ”politicized”. Language-in-education policy cannot be based only on pragmatic considerations, it cannot be based only on international recommend-ations that are compromises which do not necessarily fit all contexts, etc. It needs to be fundamentally value-based and then modified by pragmatic considerations and optimization solutions. This can be summarized as follows: With choices come consequences. It is necessary to consider all possible consequences and give serious thought even to the worst-case scenarios.

  31. Thank you! sjtakala@hotmail. com

  32. Lukion C (B 2) ja D (B3) kielen lukijaosuudet: trendejä

  33. CRISIS: management Plurilingualism as the starting point Integration Transfer Using FLs as means of subject learning Special attention to the problems of Swedish IT Landeskunde – cross-cultural competence – third space/third culture; symbolic competence

  34. CLIL Vocational school Polytechnics Bilingual regions: co-operation in systematic CLIL programs: part in Fi´nnish, part in Swedish CLIL to be expanded in universities More CLIL in English in the Upper Secondary School

  35. Positive developments (1) • Language planning and language-in-education planning have been in the agenda of national human resources development. • The public and private sectors as well as individuals have invested quite substantially in language learning. • Knowledge of L2 languages, especially, English is generally considered a self-evident need. • Motivation to learn especially English is usually very high. • Extending language study to all pupils/students in all sectors of the educational system and at all levels of education (primary, secondary, tertiary, adult) has brought about a clear increase in the national language knowledge repertoire.

  36. Negative developments • While the scope of language learning has increased since the 1970s to cover all, the number of lessons has since then been regularly cut when curricula have been reformed. • Introduction of greater electivity in the curricula has meant a clear drop in the study of a second foreign language (German, French, Russian) in the Senior High School. • The number of students taking an optional language test (German, French, Russian) in the Matriculation Examination dropped substantially when greater electivity was introduced in the curricula of the Senior High School. • In tertiary education, it is now difficult to assign reading in any other foreign language than English. • The position of other languages continues to be challenged, even threatened, by English.

  37. Number of students in the Matriculation Exam

  38. Number of test takers in the Matriculation Language Examination, 1965-2007

  39. Registration in Matric Language Exams

  40. Number of courses in the upper secondary school

  41. Typical myths/misconceptions about language education – need of rethinking: • Europe is outstanding in being multilingual and –cultural (2%) • Normal situation: one country, one language (monlingual – multilingual) • ¨Normal situation: one person, one language (monolingual – plurilingual) • Languages are difficult to learn; require linguistic ability (cf. Laurén) • Language education is almost exemplary in Finland, the ”PISA-land”

  42. Some theses • Everyone is plurilingual in some sense (local dialect, standard language, professional terminology, other languages) • ”Normality” of becoming plurilingual should be pointed out and publicised • Advantages of plurilingualism should be spelled out - empowerment • Languages are learned formally and informally; language learning is not the sole responsibility of formal provision • Plurilingualism can be promoted in formal as well as informal contexts • Integration of all language education – need for a coherent approach and curriculum design