For those with children who have moved temporarily or permanently to Finland, the issue of schooling is naturally of paramount importance. Private schools do exist where the language of instruction is English, but these tend to be more popular either with families who are in Finland for a short time and will be moving on to another English-speaking country, or with Finns who want their children to achieve a high level of proficiency in English.
For others, the question of which language their children’s schooling should take place in is rather limited, as location might make studying in Finnish the only option. But for those who have moved to Swedish-speaking areas, the possibilities clearly exist to take advantage of Swedish-language options.
Anna Shaw moved with her family to the Swedish-speaking town of Ekenäs in 2009. With two children then aged eight and thirteen, Shaw had to make the decision as to which language they would be educated in for their minimum four-year stay in Finland.
“In practice, the decision was rather easy,” says Shaw, “for a few reasons. Firstly, my mother is a Swedish-speaking Finn, and insofar as moving to Finland was an attempt to give my children some knowledge of their family history, it seemed natural to school them in my mother’s language.
“Secondly, since Ekenäs is one of the most Swedish-speaking towns in Finland the possibilities of studying in Finnish were more limited. My older child is also learning Finnish at school but her Swedish is really very good already.”
“Thirdly, it seems fair to say that Swedish is, for most people, easier to learn than Finnish. Moving to a new country can be a very challenging adventure in any case, and piling on the pressure of learning a beautiful but complex language like Finnish might not be the best recipe for a stress-free life,” she points out.