Friday - 25 September 2009
Foreign language study in compulsory and upper secondary schools 2008-2009
Statistics Iceland has published data on students in compulsory education and upper secondary schools learning foreign languages during the school year 2008-2009. The data are published for the European Day of Languages, 26th of September.
The number of young pupils learning English increases
English is the first foreign language taught in compulsory schools and also the most commonly learned foreign language. During the school year 2008-2009 33,974 pupils learned English in compulsory schools. Never before have more pupils in compulsory schools studied English since Statistics Iceland started publishing data on pupils studying foreign languages in 1999. Almost 78% of pupils in compulsory schools learn English. The number of schools where pupils start learning foreign languages before what is stipulated in the reading plan is increasing. Last school year 7,335 pupils in grades 1-4 learned English or 44% of pupils in these grades (6-9 years old). Five years ago, during the school year 2003-2004, only 484 pupils in these grades learned English, or 2.8%.
Most pupils now start learning Danish in grade 7, or at the age of 12. In many schools pupils who know Norwegian or Swedish can select those languages instead of Danish. Last school year 230 pupils selected Swedish rather than Danish and 94 pupils learned Norwegian. Not since 2001 have more pupils learned Swedish. On the other hand, the number of pupils studying Norwegian has been decreasing and is less than 100 for the first time.
Fewer pupils in compulsory schools learn three foreign languages
During the past years the number of pupils learning Spanish has increased year by year. Now their number has decreased for the first time. Last year 455 pupils learned Spanish but were 548 in the previous school year, a decrease of 93 pupils or 17%. The number of pupils learning French and German also decreases. The number of pupils learning German has decreased year by year since their number was greatest during the school year 2001-2002, when 1,338 pupils learned German as a third foreign language. During the school year 2008-2009 397 pupils learned German. The same trend can be observed among students of French. During the school year 2003-2004 354 pupils learned French while last school year 196 pupils learned French in compulsory schools.
Almost 19,000 students at the upper secondary level learn foreign languages
During the school year 2008-2009 there were 18,699 students at the upper secondary level who learned a foreign language, or 73.1% of all pupils at that level. The number of language students has increased by 585 from the previous year while the proportion of students learning foreign languages has increased by less than one percentage point from the previous school year.
The number of students of Spanish continues to increase at the upper secondary level
English is the most commonly learnt foreign language at the upper secondary level with 15,607 students, which are 61.0% of students at the upper secondary level. Danish is the second most commonly learnt language with 9,132 students, 35.7% of students at this level. These two languages are mandatory for most students at the upper secondary level. German is the third most studied language. During the school year 2008-2009 there were 4,519 students learning German, 17.7% of pupils at the upper secondary level. Spanish is in fourth place with 4,052 students, 15.8% of all students at the upper secondary level. French is now in fifth place with 2,403 students, or 9.4% of all students at this level. The proportion of students studying German and French has been decreasing while the proportion of students studying Spanish is increasing. Last decade has seen a gradual decrease in the number of students studying foreign languages except for Spanish. Students studying Spanish were 8.7% of students at the upper secondary level during the academic year 2002-2003, so their proportion has increased by 7.1 percentage points during this period.
More females learn all foreign languages at the upper secondary level with the exception of German
More females than males study foreign languages in upper secondary schools. Females outnumber males among students of all foreign languages that students can choose to study at the upper secondary level, except for German. Thus 77.2% of those who study Italian are women, 75.0% of those who study Russian, 68.7% of those who study French and 64.8% of students of Spanish are female. Women are 49.9% of students of German and men are 50.1%.
About the data
Data on compulsory schools are collected once a year for the whole school year. In upper secondary schools data were only collected on students in the autumn semester until the year 2002. The data collection was changed for the school year 2002-2003 and information also gathered on students studying foreign languages in the spring semester. However, the data only include students studying foreign languages in the spring who are registered students in the autumn semester of the same school year. Information is only collected on living foreign languages. Students in Latin, classical Greek and Esperanto are therefore not included.