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French at school Open conflict about foreign language teaching averted

The Thurgau parliament made a U-turn and narrowly voted to keep French as foreign language at primary school

(Keystone)

Opponents of a coordinated approach to foreign language teaching at primary schools in Switzerland have suffered a setback.

Parliament in canton Thurgau on Wednesday rejected a proposal to ban French at primary schools (grades one to six) in the German-speaking region in eastern Switzerland.

In a first reading of the bill in May, parliament had voted for the proposal, causing a nationwide outcry and raising the spectre of the federal government interfering in education – traditionally a domain of the 26 cantons.

As a compromise the Thurgau government put forward proposals for exemptions from the language classes.

Sensitive issue

Opponents argue French should not be taught at an early age but in the last three years of compulsory schooling (which in Switzerland is grades seven to nine).

However, the interior ministry and other supporters of early French say the teaching of another official Swiss language is crucial for the cohesion of a country with four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh.

Language teaching has been the issue of several votes at cantonal level over the past few years.

swissinfo.ch with agencies/urs


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