Parliament has voted by a wide margin to keep Swedish-language instruction compulsory in Finnish schools. On Friday afternoon, MPs rejected a citizens' initiative calling for an end to the requirement by 134 votes to 48.
The Education and Culture Committee had voted last month to reject the initiative, which was heavily backed by the opposition Finns Party.
The legislature did however approve a motion allowing more flexibility in language teaching in Eastern Finland – where schools have long argued that Russian would be more useful to learn than the minority Swedish language. That motion was narrowly approved by a vote of 93 to 89. Unusually, it was filed jointly by the prime minister’s National Coalition Party in partnership with the main opposition Centre Party.
Finland, which was ruled by Sweden for centuries up until 1809, is home to a gradually-diminishing Swedish-speaking population, which lives mostly along the coast. Last year, that minority of some 5.3 percent was exceeded for the first time by foreign-language speakers.