Minister backs early language education

The Conservatives’ (H) Torbjørn Røe Isaksen focuses on improved language education for preschool age toddlers

Sarah Bostock
The Foreigner

Ninety-eight percent of Norwegian children between the ages of one and five attend preschool.

According to the Minister, this high percentage of attendance means it is time to redirect the focus away from building places for children to what preschools’ curricula actually contain. Language tuition is the most important.

“We need a policy that ensures systematic language work in daycares,” he told Dagsavisen last week.

“It is impossible to overestimate the importance of children’s early years. Starting school without being able to speak Norwegian properly can be a fault that follows and characterizes the rest of their schooling,” Minister Isaksen added.

Statistics Norway (SSB) researcher Nina Drange commented that the sooner children start in preschool, the better they perform in language and mathematics in first grade (from six years of age, normally).

She and colleague Tarjei Havnes have examined the effect of preschool for children aged one to two years in Oslo.

The results show that:

• Preschool children performed far better on assessment tests in language and mathematics that were held in the spring in first grade than children who had to wait for a free space.

• Provision of a preschool place improves performance in both language and mathematics.

• The size of the effect is equivalent to the gap between boys and girls, or about one-third of the gap for children between highly and low-educated parents.

Moreover, Norway currently has a shortage of some 3,700 preschool teachers. The Minister proposes increased education for those already working in these institutions, as well as raising recruitment levels.

Minister Isaksen’s white paper is set to be completed next year.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the June 26, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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