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Language war

Nidwalden rejects French in primary schools

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A move by two German-speaking cantons to stop the teaching of French in primary schools has caused a storm of protest in French-speaking areas. (SRF,

A recent decision by canton Thurgau’s parliament to delay teaching French until secondary school was followed by canton Nidwalden this week. Other German-speaking cantons are considering following suit.

Nidwalden supported an initiative launched by the Swiss People’s Party, arguing that primary school children cannot cope with two foreign languages and that German and science subjects are suffering as a result of the concentration on language teaching.

The CIIP, an educational commission for the French and Italian-speaking regions, says the trend threatens the cohesion of Switzerland. Many people in western Switzerland see it as a rejection of the French-speaking minority.

In Switzerland, the main responsibility for education and culture lies with the cantons. In 2004, cantonal educational ministers recommended that all children learn a second Swiss language plus English by the fifth year of primary school.