Ensuring the supply of teachers for national minority groups
This is a summary in English, including some further remarks. The report is available only in Swedish.
Assignment In June 2010, the Government assigned the National Agency for Higher Education to propose measures that would improve Sweden´s fulfilment of its commitment to the Council of Europe´s minorities conventions regarding access to teachers who can teach national minority languages, and teach in them, i.e. teach school subjects in these languages (bilingual education). The assignment involved an overview of higher education courses for national minority languages, as well as consultations with a number of relevant public authorities and representatives of the national minorities.
In May 2011, the National Agency received a supplementary assignment which indicated that proposals for improving the supply of teachers should not involve changes in teacher-training programmes for pre-school and school teachers, or in the entry requirements for these programmes. This supplementary task also extended the original assignment by adding a European perspective, under which the Agency was to take into account examples of good practice and experiences in other countries in their efforts to ensure a supply of teachers in national minority languages.
Background In 2000, Sweden ratified the Council of Europe´s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Five Swedish national minorities and their languages were recognised: Jews (Yiddish), Romani (Romani Chib), Sami (Sami), Swedish-Finns (Finnish), and Tornedalers (Meänkieli). As a result, all five minority languages and their cultures were protected under law. They also received more far-reaching rights than those possessed by other minorities — for example concerning the right to learn their languages in school — and Sweden assumed responsibility for arranging teacher training for teaching, and teaching in, these national minority languages. Sami, Swedish-Finns and Tornedalers received special rights in administrative areas (Sw. förvaltningsområden) — for example the right to use their language in contacts with public authorities and administrations and the right of children to attend a pre-school at which the minority language is spoken, if requested by the parents.The Council of Europe has followed up Sweden´s efforts to implement the two minorities conventions and in its recommendations it urges the Government to give priority to, for example, the establishment of satisfactory teacher training and continuing professional development for teachers; improvements in mother-tongue education; better access to bilingual teaching in Finnish, Meänkieli and Sami; and the development of teaching and learning materials in all five languages.
Proposals In making its proposals for improved access to teachers who can teach, and teach in, the national minority languages the National Agency for Higher Education´s starting point was that teacher training is not an isolated phenomenon. It is affected by many factors, in particular by the fact that there have to be people who speak these languages well and that some of them want to become teachers (in most cases mother-tongue teachers). In addition, there must also be satisfactory opportunities in the regular teacher-training programmes for training teachers with such special skills and qualifications. As a consequence of the ambition to achieve a holistic approach, the proposals presented by the National Agency cover — in addition to teacher-training — the school area; statistical aspects; teaching and learning materials; professional development for teachers; the continued viability of these languages as a subject area in the higher education institutions; the development of subject-based didactics; improvements in information regarding education and training opportunities; language research and research into bilingual didactics; and financial incentives for education and continuing professional development. In total the National Agency has made about 40 proposals to improve the present situation and build a sustainable structure for ensuring the supply of teachers who can teach, and teach in, the national minority languages.
For teacher training, the National Agency proposes that the Government gives certain higher education institutions a national responsibility to teach and create a research environment in the national minority languages, as well as offer teacher-training for teaching the languages and in the languages. With the assignment should follow funding to safeguard a viable academic environment and high quality teaching. The proposal is as follows:
- Lund University: Yiddish
- Södertörn University: Romani Chib
- Stockholm University or Uppsala University: Finnish
- Umeå University: Meänkieli and Sami. A special teaching brief in Finnish (needed for Meänkieli)
Message In the course of preparing this report it has clearly emerged that the public authorities have conducted a large number of consultations with representatives of the national minorities in the last ten years. Several government assignments have been allocated as part of the minority policy and the ratification of the conventions. A considerable number of studies have been carried out, and proposals for improvement have been presented. In other words, the overall knowledge base in the education and national minorities area is considerable, and it is coherent and consistent.
As a result, the National Agency for Higher Education considers that the time is now ripe to take cohesive steps in this field and embark on a major initiative to establish a supply of teachers that is sustainable in the long term for the teaching of national minority languages and teaching in these languages.