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Linguistic debate Cantons stick to two foreign languages model

All children are supposed to learn a second Swiss language plus English by the fifth year of primary school


Primary school pupils should continue to learn two national languages plus English, according to the Conference of Cantonal Education Directors (CDIexternal linkP). However, it doesn’t want to take a concrete decision until next year. 

The CDIP said at its general meeting in Basel on Friday that it would continue to work towards an intercantonal solution in this direction, but added that time was needed for the early language programme to be tested, assessed and, if necessary, adapted. 

This risks upsetting the House of Representative’s education committee, which had already put pressure on the cantons at the beginning of October, to make a second national language obligatory in primary schools. 

The committee threatened to launch an initiative on the issue depending on the CDIP’s stance. It is set to make statement on the initiative’s text during the winter parliamentary session, which begins on November 24. 


Language teaching and the usefulness of English versus French or German have been in the headlines recently. 

Following a decision by the CDIPexternal link in 2004, all children are supposed to learn a second Swiss language plus English by the fifth year of primary school. But the reality is more complicated. French and bilingual cantons object to the fact that English has become the first non-native language taught at primary level in numerous German-speaking cantons. 

Recently officials in German-speaking cantons Thurgau and Nidwalden called for French to be dropped from primary school and taught in secondary school classes. Some people fear that other cantons may follow. and agencies

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