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Parliamentary committee rejects public call to scrap compulsory Swedish lessons

Majority of MPs unlikely to vote in favour of the citizens' initiative, as Education Committee expresses fears that ending compulsory Swedish teaching would have damaging wider effect on society.

Bussi lähdössä mielenosoitukseen Imatralla
A placard from an anti-compulsory Swedish protest in 2001, reading "Swedish good, compulsory bad". Image: Yle Etelä-Karjala

A citizens’ initiative to end compulsory Swedish lessons in Finnish schools now appears unlikely to succeed in becoming law, after the proposal was rejected on Wednesday by parliament’s Education Committee.

A petition to make Swedish language teaching voluntary for pupils was delivered to parliament last October, carrying 62,000 signatures. Under the citizens’ initiative scheme, any cause gathering the support of over 50,000 individuals will have the opportunity to be debated in parliament.

A final decision on the future of compulsory Swedish will be made at a parliamentary vote in the near future. However, with all Finland’s major parties - with the exception of the Finns Party - having publicly stated their support for continuing with compulsory Swedish, it is unlikely that the majority of MPs will vote in favour of the measure.

Committee chair Raija Vahasalo said that the proposal to end compulsory Swedish lessons was rejected after taking into account the potential wider effects on society, as well as the historical implications and impact on education.

A worry about declining numbers of pupils in Finland studying any foreign language at all besides English also contributed to the decision, she said.

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