The long running battle over which languages should be taught at Swiss primary schools, took another twist this week.
Swiss cantons largely decide for themselves which languages they teach at school, with minimal interference from the Federal government in Bern. This makes a lot of sense given Switzerland’s linguistic diversity – Switzerland has four national languages and these vary by canton. Some cantons even contain multiple linguistic groups. For example the cantons of Bern, Fribourg and Valais all contain Swiss-german and French speakers.
This week the education commission of the State’s Council, Switzerland’s closest equivalent to a cabinet, rejected two parliamentary initiatives designed to force the cantons to teach a second national language ahead of English at primary school. The first initiative requiring an extra national language be taught from no less than two years before the end of primary school was rejected. 7 voted against it, with only 4 in favour. The second, which would prevent the teaching of all foreign languages ahead of a second national language, was rejected by all members. The commission thought both initiatives encroached too much on the sovereignty of the cantons.
Initiatives that would give cantons more power to choose, have been launched in a number Swiss-German speaking cantons. They argue that teaching French at primary school overloads pupils. Swiss-German speaking primary school pupils already have to learn high-German. Adding French on top is too much they say.
The cantons of Lucern, Aargau and Graubünden are set to vote on popular initiatives that would do away with the teaching of a second national language at primary school. Nidwalden rejected a similar initiative in March 2015.
The National council, part of the Swiss parliament, will now have to rethink its proposal.
Full article on 24 Heures (in French)