Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
The main objective of this study is to increase knowledge of how mother tongue as a school subject is constructed, legitimized and positioned at the policy level. Based on the analysis of governmental policy documents, the thesis deals with mother tongue instruction (MTI) in the Swedish compulsory school, its historical development and status among other language subjects.
The study draws on the curriculum theory, which means that the focus lies on the relationship between content of the curriculum and the historical, social and cultural context in which it was conducted. Regarding MTI, I argue that it is located at an intersection among immigration, education and language policies and must, therefore, be viewed in the light of them. With curriculum theory and discourse analysis as theoretical and methodological framework, I examine governmental policy documents from the 1960s to the current curriculum (Lgr11).
The result shows that the introduction of MTI (named “home language”) in Swedish school in the 1970s was a part of an immigration policy directed towards immigrant children in order to compensate their special needs. It was argued that mother tongue was crucial for children's personal development and learning. The subject was aimed at all pupils with the home language other than Swedish and was seen as “almost mandatory”. However, the effects of MTI became questioned in the 1980-90s, which led to decreased access to MTI for students that did not belong to national minority groups. The status of the subject was weakened; in fact, it had no natural place in the school schedule. Under this period, the individual’s freedom of choice became valued more than the equality among students. The third period of the MTI history started in the late 1990s when the government articulated its willingness to raise the status of the subject.
At present, the practice of MTI is regulated not only by the curriculum but also by the school law and the language law. MTI is currently a part of language policy, which is aimed at language pluralism. Indeed, the development of bilingualism has been stated as the goal of MTI in every curriculum since Lgr69. In the meantime, other language subjects do not aim at promoting bilingualism. This means that bilingualism is something that minority groups should strive for, but nothing majority students need.
The current curriculum emphasizes the mother tongue’s significance for language acquisition and for learning in general. The focus still lies on the mother tongue’s importance for individuals but not for the society. Moreover, there are no connections mentioned between MTI and future studies and job opportunities, as the case is for other language subjects. By comparing syllabuses for other school languages I concluded that MTI is constructed as a kind of support subject, rather than as a regular language subject.
mother tongue instruction, curriculum theory, discourse analysis, policy analysis, language education policy