|For children with a mother tongue other than the official language of the country they live in, it is important to maintain their mother tongue. In many countries, there are no programs (anymore) that respond to this necessity. One of the countries in which children have the right to be educated in their mother tongue is Sweden, where mother tongue instruction (MTI) is decentralized to the municipalities. In the Netherlands, neither the national nor the local government organize these programs. Scientific evidence shows that maintaining the mother tongue has cognitive, emotional, cultural and social benefits, and that it can improve overall school performances.
This study investigates whether aspects of the organization in Sweden can be implemented in the Netherlands. Since the Swedish system is decentralized, the study focuses on two municipalities, Malmö and Utrecht, rather than on Sweden and the Netherlands. The research question is What can Utrecht learn from Malmö about their system of mother tongue instruction? To answer the research question, interviews were held in Malmö with people involved in the organization of MTI.
Some components of Malmö’s organization can be adopted without further concern: politicians need to be informed about and by the scientific field; the organization should be in close contact with the municipality; knowledge of the practical field and the drive for improvement and innovation contribute to the success of the system. Other practices need some adjustment to fit in well into the Utrecht situation: the establishment of a curriculum; the inclusion of MTI in existing programs that focus on fighting language delays; how to train less-experienced schools in educating newcomers; and how information gathered in newcomers’ intakes can enrich the current procedure.