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Linguistic Challenges That Turned Out to be Legal Ones Kaisa Syrjänen Schaal, LL.M. Church of Sweden.

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Presentation on theme: "Linguistic Challenges That Turned Out to be Legal Ones Kaisa Syrjänen Schaal, LL.M. Church of Sweden."— Presentation transcript:

1 Linguistic Challenges That Turned Out to be Legal Ones Kaisa Syrjänen Schaal, LL.M. Church of Sweden

2 Why is the Church of Sweden involved in minority and indigenous issues? more focus on indigenous and minority issues because these groups are also part of the church reconciliation processes with the Sami and Roma need to react on human rights violations commitment to work with rights based approach and empowerment in general Examples: criticized the Swedish Government for being too passive in implementing indigenous rights (2013); two shadow reports to Council of Europe on minority rights (2012, 2013); recent report on minority/indigenous youth issues

3 Swedish experience the rights of national minorities were recognized very late (1999) – limited action indigenous rights have not been developed in spite of domestic and international criticism general lack of awareness and knowledge of national minorities’ and indigenous rights and historical wrongdoings by the state self righteous attitudes towards domestic human rights issues

4 Many linguistic challenges ongoing language shift is threatening the survival of national minority languages in Sweden some languages are severly threatened similar patterns: fewer children learn their minority language, functional illiteracy, limited language domains, limited public use and lack of media in minority languages too few are reaching higher proficiency and literacy in minority languages

5 decisive and innovative measures are needed according to NGOs, linguists, Council of Europe and UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues The Swedish educational system’s ability to support and promote minority children’s proficiency and literacy in their minority language is the single most important issue to address for the minority languages to survive. Yet, very little has been done….

6 Marginalized and Ignored National Minority Children’s Struggle for Language Rights in Sweden 2013 (Dec. 2013)

7 Legal problems in educational system Legislation in the field of education is too weak, it does not provide the right to stronger immersion och bilingual programs. Municipalities will not do anything without legal obligations. It is virtually impossible to increase the volumes of pupils or the amount of teaching provided in minority languages.

8 Bilingual or minority language medium pre- school education is difficult to get, even in areas where the municipalities have to provide it ”partly in minority language” v. ”substancial part” (minimalistic interpretations limit possibilities) Mother tongue tuition (30-40 min/week) is not enough in order to acquire higher proficiency and literacy It is difficult to even receive mother tongue tuition of any length: 300 out of 595 Sami pupils received such tuition (2011) ”Basic knowledge” in minority language is still required for tuition

9 Bilingual programs are very few: 188 pupils in Sami Schools pupils in integrated Sami program (2012); 7 bilingual Sweden-Finnish schools with 698 pupils (2013). Stronger immersion programs are not allowed (minimum of 50 % teaching in Swedish). Exceedingly difficult to establish new private minority schools. Have to show ”sufficient” number of potential pupils in advance.

10 Structural problems in educational system Teacher training is being reformed: seriously underfunded, will not provide enough teachers (minimum funding needed 26.3 million SEK; the Swedish Government allocated 6.5 million SEK) no extra incentives for students (yet, such incentives are being used today for other types of teacher training) Lack of sanctions and remedies

11 Conclusions National minority and indigenous children are not receiving the support they need. They and their needs are being ignored and marginalized within the educational system. Sweden is not fulfilling its obligations under Council of Europe Minority Conventions nor under Article 30 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (the right to language and cultural identity).


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