1.1 Mission statement
Mattlidens Gymnasium provides excellence in teaching and learning, in a tolerant, compassionate and open-minded international environment. We support students in developing their potential as critical thinkers and creative life-long learners, by actively involving them in the learning process and their community.
1.2 Language philosophy
Mattlidens gymnasium recognises the central role of language not just as a vehicle for the communication of knowledge in communities, but also for its role for individuals in acquiring, understanding and reflecting on knowledge in all fields. As such, we are all teachers and learners of language, in whatever activities we are involved.
We also see language as playing a central role in the school's attempts to foster a culture of internationalism. Internationalism requires respect for and recognition of the central role that languages play in people's identity, and, as such, we feel there is an important need for young people to deepen their understanding and appreciation of both their own native language(s) and the languages of other communities. We recognise that, in the modern globalised context, the distinction between one's native language(s) and foreign languages might not be clear, but it is nonetheless of central educational importance that students broaden their knowledge of foreign languages without forgetting the importance of the languages of their own native community.
Finally, we recognise the importance of literature in human development. It is extremely important that education equips students with the tools to use literature to enrich their own lives and the lives of others.
1.3 School language profile
Mattlidens gymnasium is a Swedish-speaking school in Finland, where all students study in Swedish, with Finnish compulsory as a second native language. In the IB section, these two national languages also play an important role, as does English, which is the language of instruction in the non-language subject groups. Swedish and English are the primary languages of the school, with Finnish also playing an important role.
In addition to these three languages, we have many students with more diverse linguistic backgrounds. At the time of writing, this includes the following languages: Russian, Ukranian, Polish, Farsi, Korean, Portuguese, German, Japanese and Hungarian. Some of these students study their native language as an A self-taught language, while others choose one of the three main languages as their Group 1 language.
The staff are also linguistically diverse. Primarily consisting of Swedish-speaking Finns and native English speakers, there are also those from other countries. The vast majority of our staff are fluent in two or three languages.
2. Language in the Classroom
2.1 Course provision
As a Swedish-speaking school in Finland, we are committed to offering both Swedish and Finnish, as both A and B languages. Students are encouraged not to neglect their mother tongue(s), and, for this reason, Swedish and Finnish A are particularly encouraged. In addition, we offer English A: Language and Literature and a selection of B languages. Our B language provision currently includes Finnish, Swedish, English, French and Spanish, although only French, Swedish and Finnish have had enough students in recent years to be taught on a regular basis. English B and Finnish B have been offered on both standard and higher level. French, Spanish and Swedish B have so far only been offered at SL.
As covered in section 1.3 above, it is very much the reality of our context that students come to this school with a complex linguistic background, and, as such, the idea of students speaking one native language and several foreign languages does not apply particularly well in our school. Most of our students could be considered native in at least two languages, and their experiences of the language of instruction in school varies. This situation allows us to foster a spirit of internationalism, in which students recognise the need for sensitivity, tolerance and open-minded thinking.
In particular, our commitment to internationalism is shown in our offering English A: Language and Literature as well as the selection of B languages offered.
2.1.2 Supporting students’ mother tongue
In accordance with IB policy, our school is committed to supporting students’ development in their mother tongue. For the majority of our students, this is reflected in our commitment to offering both Swedish and Finnish in group 1, and encouraging students for whom one of these is their native language to rise to the challenge of studying this language in Group 1.
For those students who do not belong to the majority, those whose native language is not Finnish or Swedish, we have a member of staff responsible for overseeing a programme of self-taught study in Group 1.
2.2 Approaches to language teaching
Our language teachers focus on using the target language as the language of instruction and interaction in class. Learners are also encouraged to use the target language in all areas of communication related to the subject.
2.3 Language across the curriculum
We recognise that all teachers are language teachers. By this, we mean that, in all subject groups, language is fundamental to the communication between teachers and learners that is necessary in the learning process. In order to succeed, our teachers focus on using language in an appropriate and efficient way, and aim to communicate effectively with those around them. Teachers also recognise the importance of language skills in student assessment, and that learners need to be equipped with the linguistics tools necessary to succeed in all assessment components.
3. Language in the School
It is important to consider not only the role of language in the classroom, but also the role it plays in the day-to-day working life of the school.
3.1 Working languages
The primary working languages of Mattlidens gymnasium are Swedish and English. As a Swedish-speaking school representing a cultural minority in Finland, Swedish will remain the primary language of the school, but English is recognised as the school’s second working language. For the IB section, English is the official language.
It is considered desirable that staff meetings at Mattlidens involve teachers from both the IB section and the national side. As such, it cannot be expected that the meetings take place entirely in English. However, as it is assumed that all members of the teaching staff understand English, it is the default language of staff meetings in the school. Participants in the meetings are free to choose whether they wish to use English or Swedish, but those in charge of running the meetings need to ensure that those who do not understand Swedish are not excluded from discussions which concern them.
3.1.2 Non-teaching staff
While all the teaching staff are competent in English, some members of the non-teaching staff are not. This calls for flexibility in terms of language, and the school encourages a pragmatic approach in which English, Swedish or Finnish are used to facilitate communication.
3.1.3 Counselling and guidance for students
English is the official language of the IB section, and all counselling and guidance will be available to students in English. There is no requirement for one-to-one communication between staff and students to be in English, but when groups of students are present, English is considered the most desirable choice of language.
4. Language in the Wider School Community
In order to encourage parents’ active participation in the life of the school, steps must be taken to ensure there are as few language barriers as possible.
4.1 The website
The school is conscious of the central importance of the website in an increasingly digital world, and it is important that the website reflects our language policy. in the coming years, the website will be developed, and one goal here is to ensure an improved bilingual structure.
4.2 Direct communication with parents
As stipulated in section 3.1.3, having English as the official language of our IB section requires all communication with parents to be available in English. In one-to-one communication, another language may be a better option, but in cases when communication is between the school and the parents of more than one student, English will be the language of choice.
5. Language and Access
5.1 Supporting students with linguistic learning difficulties
The school has an active body of support staff that can provide further help and guidance to students who have problems with language. In particular, the school’s special needs teacher has experience of helping students with issues such as dyslexia, and will be the main contact person in such cases.
5.2 Supporting students who are studying in a foreign language
In accordance with our desire, as representatives of a linguistic minority, to encourage students’ development of their native language, we also encourage students whose native language is neither Swedish, Finnish or English to continue their native language development by following Language A: Literature as a self-taught subject. We have a member of staff who oversees students following this path, and we aim to provide what support we can. It is the opinion of the school that students taking a self-taught group 1 subject should take another group 1 language at the school in order to provide them with guidance in the analysis of texts that will support their self-taught native language.
6. Review Process
The language policy will undergo an annual revision process during the first teaching period of each academic year. This will, in accordance with the school’s other policies, follow the procedure outlined below.
● Evaluation of policy and in cross-curricula groups during the August planning day, culminating with suggestions for changes made to the steering group / ELT.
● Discussion of these proposals in the steering group / ELT, culminating in proposed
changes to the policy
● Agreement on these changes resulting in the policy being updated before the end of the
first teaching period