Six Finnish municipalities have entered a curricular trial phase that allows for primary school students to learn a foreign language to replace mandated Swedish lessons. Swedish is Finland's second official language and learning it is normally obligatory in primary school.
The Finnish National Agency for Education says the semi-rural municipalities of Jämsä, Kaustinen, Pieksämäki, Rovaniemi and Ylöjärvi have chosen one school each in which to carry out the programme, while Savonlinna is involved with four regional schools.
The plan is part of the government's "New Basic Education" package, which aims to increase and diversify language teaching. Parliament set a separate law in January for the curricular option to be made possible.
The education agency says that 486 students will join in the programme, which is aimed at 5th and 6th grade students (aged 11-12) who would have been obliged to start studying Swedish in the new school year.
Many of the applications mention Russian as a desired replacement language. Spanish, French and German are also on offer.