Sami Languages in Education: Comparative Case Study of Finland and Sweden
Sami Languages in
Finland and Sweden
University of Lapland
PhD Candidate Faculty of Education
“Policies for OER in less used
languages: are nations and
regions using lesser used
The Sami languages are Finno-Urgric languages
(such as Finnish, Hungarian and Estonian) spoken
in the Sami region in Norway, Sweden, Finland
According to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s
Language in Danger, all of the Sami languages are
Comparison: The Number of Native Speakers of Sami Languages
10 Sami Languages and their areas
If we compare the number
of languages, Sweden is
more multilingual than
Framework Convention for the Protection of
National Minorities Article 12
The Parties shall, where appropriate, take measures in the fields of
education and research to foster knowledge of the culture, history,
language and religion of their national minorities and of the
In this context the Parties shall inter alia provide adequate
opportunities for teacher training and access to textbooks, and
facilitate contacts among students and teachers of different
The Parties undertake to promote equal opportunities for access
to education at all levels for persons belonging to national minorities.
The Parties undertake to recognize that every person belonging to
a national minority has the right to learn his or her minority
In areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities
traditionally or in substantial numbers, if there is sufficient demand,
the Parties shall endeavor to ensure, as far as possible and within the
framework of their education systems, that persons belonging to those
minorities have adequate opportunities for being taught the minority
language or for receiving instruction in this language.
Paragraph 2 of this article shall be implemented without prejudice
to the learning of the official language or the teaching in this language.
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Article 8 – Education
1 With regard to education, the Parties undertake, within the territory in which such languages are used,
according to the situation of each of these languages, and without prejudice to the teaching of the official
language(s) of the State:
a i to make available pre-school education in the relevant regional or minority languages; or
ii to make available a substantial part of pre-school education in the relevant regional or minority languages; or
iii to apply one of the measures provided for under i and ii above at least to those pupils whose families so
request and whose number is considered sufficient; or
iv if the public authorities have no direct competence in the field of pre-school education, to favour and/or
encourage the application of the measures referred to under i to iii above;
b i to make available primary education in the relevant regional or minority languages; or
ii to make available a substantial part of primary education in the relevant regional or minority languages; or
iii to provide, within primary education, for the teaching of the relevant regional or minority languages as an
integral part of the curriculum; or
iv to apply one of the measures provided for under i to iii above at least to those pupils whose families so
request and whose number is considered sufficient;
c i to make available secondary education in the relevant regional or minority languages; or
ii to make available a substantial part of secondary education in the relevant regional or minority languages; or
iii to provide, within secondary education, for the teaching of the relevant regional or minority languages as an
integral part of the curriculum; or
iv to apply one of the measures provided for under i to iii above at least to those pupils who, or where
appropriate whose families, so wish in a number considered sufficien
1.considering that all municipalities in Sami homeland in Finland provide Sami education at pre-
school level, Finland provides better pre-school education for Sami pupils. Sweden on the other
hand, fails to offer Sami pre-school education in preschool level in several municipalities, which
should be covered on the basis of framework convention.
2.In terms of material preparation, although there is still a huge demand of producing teaching
materials in Skolt Sami language, Finland also provides better practices since the Sami
Parliament produces teaching materials in all Sami languages even for pre-school level.
-Pupils, who attend a separate state-run “Sami school” (Sameskolan) during
their compulsory school years until the end of year 6, stay at schools’
accommodations during their education.
-The National Agency for Education has established a special syllabus for
Sami tuition in the Sami School. Government states that there were six Sami
(2) Sami integrated primary school;
-some municipalities in Swedish Sami administrative areas do not have Sami
schools. In such areas, they have integrated Sami language education into
-after the year 6 at a Sami school, integrated Sami teaching is organized for
Sami pupils from year 7 to 9 (from age 13-14 until age 15-16).
-The schools that have integrated Sami teaching have between two to four
hours of Sami per week (Government report 2013) In such cases, pupils study
other subjects in ordinary teaching syllabus in Swedish language.
Compulsory schools with mother tongue tuition of Sami
-held 30 minutes to 1 hour every week outside usual school hours.
-In order to receive mother tongue tuition in Sami, a pupil have to the basic
knowledge of the language, as well as with the perquisite of municipalities to
provide mother tongue tuition if a substantial teacher is available , which is
an obstacle for a Sami speaking pupils to receive adequate education in their
mother tongue since there is currently a serious lack of Sami language
teachers in Sweden.
NO SAMI SCHOOL
Sami pupils in Finland do not have a separate system of education.In
Finland, currently, for all three varieties of Sami languages (North Sami,
Inari Sami and Skolt Sami), compulsory school education in Sami language
is available systemically in Sami administrative area.
LANGUAG REVIVAL THROUGH EDUCATION
The number of students participating in teaching in Inari Sámi serves as an
indication of successful language revival: the number of students has
regularly increased since the 1990s,
LACK OF TEACHERS
In all municipalities of Sami homeland, the lack of the teachers is
reported as a serious problem. In such an area, often only the lower
classes are arranged in Sami.
EDUCATION FOR PUPILS OUTSIDE SAMI AREA
Another problem which Sami population in Finland has been confronting
is the education for children who reside outside Sami home land.
Statistics reveals that in 2007, 59% of the Sami aged 11-17 years and
more than 60% of the Sami aged 18-24 resided outside Sami homeland.
One of the reasons of this is because the Sami Language Act of Finland
does not obligate municipalities outside of Sami Homeland to provide
teaching of Sami.
Also, for those children who reside outside Sami homeland, the amount of
teaching hours that are regulated by the law is only two hours per week
(Keskitalo et al, 2014).
1. Compared with Sweden, Finland does not have a separate school or a separate syllabus specifically for
Sami speaking pupils at compulsory level. the Swedish system might be beneficial to keep the languages and
traditions alive. With this regards, the Swedish system could result in preservation of Sami culture and
2.the problem of Swedish system is its inconsistency. for Sami pupils because some pupils who cannot attend
Sami schools can receive education in Sami only for a couple of hours per week. The amount of time is not
sufficient for proper language acquisition for pupils especially for endangered languages, especially in most
cases of Sami children, their home language may not be Sami.
3.In both Finland and Sweden, pupils who are outside Sami homeland municipalities and who cannot attend
High School Education
1.In both countries, there is a tendency that towards the upper school grades, Sámi
language instruction decreases (in all Sámi languages).
2.Comparing the two countries, at the level of secondary education, Sweden organizes
systematic organization for Sami pupils, providing them with opportunities to choose
the Sami industries program or the Sami civic program. This creates a way for Sami
pupils to participate in further education if they wish.
1.Considering the availability of mother tongue examination in Sami languages, Finland has better practices in
terms of the examination for higher institutions, although in reality, Sami children have to switch to Finnish to
take other subjects of matriculation examination.
2.In Finland, there are three universities which offer teaching of Sami, covering three Sami languages. Finland
also offers Sami languages in its capital city, at the University of Helsinki. In Sweden, there are currently only
two universities which offer Sami languages as a subject of study. Under the current system, students in
Sweden, cannot take Ume Sami language or Pite Sami language courses at any university in Sweden.
3.A lack of systematic teacher training system in both countries. Both countries should establish training
systems for teachers of Sami languages. The Swedish municipalities are only obligated to offer mother tongue
tuition if a sustainable teacher is available..In reality, since there is a lack of systematic teacher training at
university level, it is surely impossible to establish Sami teaching in schools.
Sami Languages in Inari
Virtual School on the Internet
One year course
Sami teacher teaches a group of students who are
interested in Sami
Students live all over Finland (all over the world)
Chilrden’s program on Radio http://areena.yle.fi/1-
Different Sami languages are used.
•Represent “one identity” as
Sami, crossing national borders
•Radio programs which uses
three Sami langauges
...because the same teacher teaches the same class.... And
because we have different books....and some classes were
in Finnish, for example, physics was in Finnish......and
basically our history book in Sami was terrible so
I my mother chose to teach us with a Finnish
Policies for OER
For the case of Sami languages, it is useful because....
1. There are different Sami languages, crossing the borders
of four countries.
2. Recently, many Sami people live outside the Sami area,
where no administrative obligation is required for
teaching the language to children
Thank you very much.
Madoka Hammine (Faculty of Education, University of Lapland)
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Phone: +358 44 911 7432