If it were up to government coalition party Radikale, public school students in Copenhagen would be offered the opportunity to learn Arabic for free during school hours, as they are today with French and German.
Tommy Petersen, a City Council board member and the spokesperson for children and youth issues for Radikale, said that it didn’t make sense that Arabic isn’t among the languages offered in public schools.
“Arabic is one of the most spoken languages in the world,” Petersen told Berlingske newspaper. “Some 280 million Arabs are practically neighbours to Europe, and Arabic is the most spoken immigrant language in Denmark.”
Petersen went on to add that Denmark had loads of business interests in Arabic nations and that it was also wrong that children of parents from Arabic nations can’t have their mother-tongue lessons paid for after fifth grade, as is the case currently thanks to a reintroduction of the initiative last year.
Bertel said 'nej'
The City Council asked permission to offer Arabic as an optional language course in public schools as a trial in 2009, but Bertel Haarder, the education minister at the time, shot down the idea. Now, Petersen and Radikale want to try again.
“It’s a huge advantage that Danes are good at foreign languages, and if the grounds are set to become really good at a language because it is spoken at home, then it should obviously be strengthened. It can only be an advantage.” Petersen said.
According to the city's child and youth committee, Københavns Børne- og Ungdomsforvaltning, it would cost about four million kroner a year to extend the free mother-tongue education from the fifth grade through to grade nine.