Kristin Halvorsen, Norway’s government minister in charge of education, has turned thumbs down on proposals to bus students around town as a means of improving their Norwegian language skills.
Halvorsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday that she doesn’t support bussing, even though some members of her Socialist Left (SV) party do.
“There must be other ways of striking a better balance than by forcing students to attend other schools,” Halvorsen told NRK.
She said she has followed an emerging public debate on bussing and doesn’t like what she’s been hearing.
“There’s been talk about ‘minority’ and ‘majority’ children, but all these children are Norwegian,” Halvorsen said. “The biggest divisions in Norwegian schools aren’t about minorities and majorities but about social background.”
At some schools in Oslo, more than half the students do not have Norwegian as their first language at home. That’s what’s prompted calls to bus some of these students to other parts of the city where the vast majority of students speak Norwegian at home. The idea is to boost exposure to Norwegian, and improve the Norwegian language skills of children with immigrant parents, similar to programs now being carried out in Denmark.
Halvorsen remains opposed to bussing. “We don’t achieve anything by taking students out of their neighborhoods and sending them by bus across town,” she said.
Halvorsen said, however, that she would consider completely voluntary bussing programs. Fellow party leaders Audun Lysbakken and Heikki Holmås of SV have been among those proposing bussing alternatives.