instruction in the mother-tongue or may receive instruction against a fee, whereas children from EU/EES countries are entitled to government funded instruction in the mother-tongue throughout their schooling.
The remainder of the municipalities has either provided instruction to a smaller number of students from EU/EES countries and from the Faroe Islands and Greenland or not provided any instruction at all.
During the school year 2007/08 a total of approximately 5000 minority pupils have taken part in publicly financed instruction in the mother-tongue, amounting to about 7 per cent of the pupils having a different mother-tongue than Danish. Out of these about 2.800 were residents in Copenhagen, the largest municipality in the country. I 1997 a survey showed that about 41 per cent of the students having a minority language background received instruction in their language.41 In other words, there is a strong decline in the development of bilingual competences among minority students in Denmark, if we consider the education that takes place within the public education system.
The revised legislation results in quite arbitrary results of which one example may be mentioned:
If a family having Spanish as its mother-tongue moves to Greve the opportunity to receive education in the mother tongue depends on whether the child/children speak Spanish, because the parents derives e.g. from Peru or from Spain. If they come from Spain the child/ children will be offered government funded instruction in the mother-tongue throughout the entire schooling period in their own municipality. If the parents are from Peru, the child/children will not be given the offer. If the family had moved to Copenhagen on the other hand the child/children would have been offered publicly financed instruction in their mother tongue up until and including 5th grade no matter whether the parents come from Spain or Peru. After 5th grade, however, the parents will have to pay if the family comes from Peru, but not if it comes from Spain.
In the survey the 40 interviewed parents state three main reasons for finding that education at a high level in the mother-tongue is important:
The possibility of the parents for bringing their children up and forming them to citizens in Denmark is closely connected to the children and parents being able to communicate in a language, where the adults can maintain their rôle as parents.
The children’s possibilities for achieving good educational results – becoming good in Danish as well as other subjects are closely connected to their self-esteem and identity as bilingual and bicultural.
The benefit for society from the actual linguistic and cultural profusion becomes positive, when children and young persons grow competent at a high level to enter into societal institutions and the private labour market with linguistic abilities both in the mother-tongue and in Danish and with the knowledge and cultural heritage, which is connected to the mother-tongue.
Those parents who have contributed to the survey conceive their children’s bilingualism as a resource, and they refuse to reject their linguistic and cultural heritage as a pre-condition for being Danish.
According to the parents the government’s downgrading of the mother-tongue instruction has had negative impact on practice in the schools and educational institutions in several ways. The parents have experiences with institutions and schools prohibiting children and young persons to speak their mother-tongue in class or at the school. It means that the children are deprived of those learning strategies that are regularly used by children with several languages whereby they tie new knowledge to the knowledge they possess both in their mother-tongue and in
41 Kommunerne og de tosprogede elever, Udviklingscentret for undervisning og uddannelse af tosprogede børn og unge, UC2, 1997. At the relevant time there were approx. 39.000 bilingual pupils in Denmark.