18.2.2019

The number of pupils studying in the indigenous Sámi languages is increasing

The number of both pupils receiving instruction in Sámi and pupils studying Sámi as a voluntary foreign language in basic education has increased in the early part of the 2000s. Now there are pupils studying in Sámi also in Helsinki.

The number of pupils receiving instruction in Sámi rose quite steadily from a little less than 130 in the school year 2005–2006 to almost two hundred in the school year 2015–2016. The number of students with Sámi as a foreign language has varied more from year to year. However, also there was a notable change during the period of ten years: the number of pupils rose with over 100, which was an increase of over 25 %.

Picture: Number of pupils studying Sámi in basic education

Source: Sámi parliament of Finland, statistics on education.

Sámi can be the language of instruction, or pupils can study Sámi as mother tongue and literature or as a voluntary foreign language. According to legislation, pupils living in the Sámi home area who are proficient in Sámi, shall be given instruction mainly in Sámi. The Sámi home area in the Finnish Lapland includes the municipalities of Utsjoki, Inari and Enontekiö, as well as Vuotso, which is located in the northern part of the municipality of Sodankylä. Three Sámi languages are spoken in Finland: Northern Sámi, Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi.

Between years 2006 and 2016 no pupils outside the Sámi home area received instruction in Sámi. This, even though the majority of Sámi children and adolescents nowadays live in other parts of Finland. The situation is slowly changing: for example, the Pasila primary school in Helsinki has offered classes taught bilingually in Sámi and Finnish since August 2018.

One factor affecting the possibility to study Sámi outside the Sámi home area is whether distance learning is available. In May 2018, the Ministry of Education and Culture granted funding to the municipality of Utsjoki until the end of 2020, for a project promoting remote access to study Sámi.

UN has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The Sámi National Day is celebrated on 6 February.

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The number of both pupils receiving instruction in Sámi and pupils studying Sámi as a voluntary foreign language in basic education has increased in the early part of the 2000s. Now there are pupils studying in Sámi also in Helsinki.