On Sunday, 60.8% of voters in the canton of Zurich rejected a plan to reduce the number of languages taught in primary schools to one.
Part of a long running saga starting in 2004, the vote put forward by some teachers in Zurich, is based on the concern that primary school children and their teachers are overwhelmed with subjects. The referendum called for teaching of one of the two extra languages to be delayed until secondary school. A similar referendum in 2006 was rejected. This time around the vote had the support to two political parties: the Swiss People’s Party (UDC / SVP) and UDF / EDU.
Those opposing this vote, including some in Bern, suggested that English would be dropped if the referendum had passed because learning French is an important element of ensuring social cohesion across Switzerland.
Silvia Steiner, Zurich’s minister of public education, was “very relieved” by the result, which she told various media avoids enormous upheaval.
Currently, English is taught from the second year of primary school and French from the fifth. Under current plans, starting next year, English instruction will start one year later.
The teaching of two extra languages was agreed in 2004 at a national level by the EDK, a national association of educators. Since then it has attracted many detractors, some of whom complain of overreach and national meddling in a something which is a matter for cantons.
Similar votes to remove a language at primary school have been rejected by voters in the cantons of Zug, Schaffhausen, Thurgau, Zurich and Nidwalden.
Similar initiatives are in the works in Luzern, Graubunden and Basel-Landschaft – the last one is aiming to drop English.
On 3 May 2017, the canton of Thurgau’s parliament voted 64 to 53 to push the start of French instruction to secondary school, according to a report by Swiss Broadcaster RTS.
Et ça recommence…