Basel mulls language quotas in schools

Basel mulls language quotas in schools
Basel is trying to improve knowledge of German in its classes. Photo: AFP
Politicians in Basel are considering measures to deal with the large number of non-German speaking pupils in schools.

The parliament of the canton of Basel-City is expected to decide later this week on introducing a minimum quota of German-speaking children in its school classes.

A motion calls for at least 30 percent of pupils per class to have Swiss German as their mother tongue.

The number of foreign children in Swiss schools is constantly growing, according to a report in the Tages-Anzeiger.

The paper says that in the canton of Zurich there are 93 schools that receive special state subsidies because of the high number of children speaking a foreign language.

Around 80 schools in the canton have classes where more than 70 percent of pupils have a mother tongue other than German.

In Basel politicians from across the political spectrum welcome the introduction of a quota for Swiss German speakers, the paper says.

In addition the motion says that there should be no class where more than 30 percent of children speak the same foreign language.

Beat Zemp, the president of the Swiss teachers’ umbrella organisation welcomes the introduction of quotas, according to Tages-Anzeiger.

It quotes Zemp as saying this is an opportunity for Basel-City to prevent “ghetto schools”, with no German-speaking children.

The more the classes are mixed the quicker children with a foreign language will learn High German and Swiss German, he says.

But Zemp said he saw Basel as an exception, and there was no need for quotas across the country.

Basel education director Christoph Eymann has come out against the quota proposal.

In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung, Eymann said this was the wrong way to proceed.

He said migrant children should be put into playgroups to learn German before starting school.

“Next to Geneva, Basel has the highest number of foreign children in Europe,” Eymann said.

He said the language assistance to migrant children in playgroups cost the canton two million francs a year.

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