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Wednesday's papers: Foreign language teaching, heat wave deaths and spring feeling

Wednesday's press look at language teaching for first-graders, deaths caused by summer heat and spring's arrival.

Image: Kalevi Rytkölä / Yle

Daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that all first-graders in Finland will start learning a foreign language in the autumn. By introducing children to foreign languages at an earlier age, the Finnish National Agency for Education wants to make language teaching and choices more equal across the country, HS writes. Currently, teaching of the first foreign language, so called A1-language, begins in third grade.

About 100 municipalities already took part in a two-year pilot project which was aimed to develop and increase foreign language instruction in daycares, pre- and primary schools.

"This project has been very successful," says the education ministry's senior ministerial adviser Minna Polvinen.

"According to the feedback we’ve received, this is exactly what language teaching needs," she adds.

One objective of the project has been to diversify language studies, so that as many children as possible would study another language besides English, HS says.

At the moment, 80 percent of pupils in basic education (grades 1-9) study one foreign language, usually English, in addition to Swedish or Finnish – the country's two official languages.

The education agency considers the narrowing of language skills among Finns a worrisome trend, according to the paper.

As a result, besides English, schools in Tampere provide instruction in Swedish, German, French, Russian and Chinese. On top of these, schoolkids in Helsinki can choose Northern Sámi or Estonian, which are both offered in one school.

Heat wave deaths

The extended heat wave last summer raised mortality rates among elderly people, writes daily Karjalainen. Based on a study by the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL, the heatwave during July and August of last year caused the premature deaths of 380 people.

The daily mortality rate among people aged 65 and over increased by 14 percent, the paper says.

A long period of high temperatures poses risks to people suffering from heart and circulatory diseases, respiratory diseases, neurological disorders or mental health problems, says Virpi Kollanus from THL.

According to her, mortality increases among older people regardless of whether they live at home or at senior care centres.

“We recommend that senior care homes improve their preparedness for heat waves,” Kollanus adds.

The temperature inside senior care homes should not rise beyond 30 degrees Celsius, according to the paper.

According to figures from the Finnish Meteorological Institute, last summer was two full degrees warmer than the average. In southern Finland, there were 40 days when temperatures exceeded 25 degrees.

Weekend warmth

It might not be a heatwave quite yet, but it seems spring is finally on its way. Tabloid Iltalehti writes that temperatures in southern and central Finland could top 10 degrees on Friday and Saturday.

”Friday in particularly will be fairly dry and sunny aross the country, with the exception of Lapland. In the south, Saturday is a good day to go outdoors as well, with temperatures between five and nine degrees,” says meteorologist Riikka Lahtinen from Foreca.

But strong winds will make the weather feel a bit colder, she notes.

According to IL, average daytime temperatures in the south have risen above zero degrees, which means that spring has officially stared.

“Early spring flowers like coltsfoot and hepatica have already been spotted,” Lahtinen says.

However, nights are likely to remain cold, with temperatures below zero, at least on Wednesday. In Lapland, it could be as cold as -15 degrees, Lahtinen adds.

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