Manglerud School in Oslo is the first state-run primary school in the nation to teach in English. In a trial programme, the school's 80 students in the first through fourth grades will have all of their subjects taught in English, with the exception of a few hours each week that will focus on the Norwegian language.
The English curriculum is open to all Oslo students, giving them a new state school option. Previously, the only English-language schools in the capital region were the private Oslo International School and Asker International School. At the former, attended by Princess Ingrid Alexandra, tuition is nearly 200,000 kroner per year.
While students and teachers at Manglerud are excited about the new English teaching, the Norwegian Language Society said the move is a direct threat to Norway's two official languages, bokmål and nynorsk.
“We are seeing a gradual development toward English becoming the workplace and school language in Norway. Most people in Norway would agree that this is not a development that we want,” the society's leader, Magne Aasbrenn, told broadcaster NRK.
He said he doesn't want to see English and Norwegian “trade places” in their importance.
“If we Norwegians want to have something to build our culture upon in the future, we can't just let our language slip between our fingers,” he said.
Nina Wroldsen of Oslo Municipality said she sees no reason why Manglerud School's English curriculum should be a viewed as an existential threat to Norwegian. Instead, she told NRK that the school is filling “a need that hasn't been met before”.
“It's time to think globally. The world has become smaller and more and more people have an international background,” she said.
Oslo City Councilwoman Tone Tellevik Dahl agreed.
“We want state-run schools to be the natural choice for all parents and children in Oslo. Since Oslo is a city with many international residents, it is very natural for us to offer English-language education for free,” Dahl told NRK.
The majority of students at Manglerud School do not have Norwegian as a mother tongue, Wroldsen said.
Aasbreen of the Norwegian Language Society isn't convinced.
“Ultimately, this is about the future of the Norwegian language in Norway,” he said.