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English takes over from Danish;Briefing International

ICELAND

English is replacing Danish as the first foreign language learned in schools as the new national curriculum, launched last March by the government, takes effect.

The ambitious new policy for primary and upper secondary schools is aimed at giving Icelanders an education comparable to the best in the world.

"The essence of the new school policy is an attempt to create an efficient but flexible education system that focuses on the needs of individual students, increases student choice but simultaneously instils academic discipline, good working skills, healthy competition and enhanced student responsibility," said Bjorn Bjarnson, minister of education, science and culture.

According to Jonmundur Gudmarsson, the minister's political adviser, English will now be taught from the age of 10 while Danish lessons will start when pupils are 13.

Before the changes, children started learning Danish at 10 and English when they were 12.

"The teaching of English has been increased, while Danish is kept the same as before but concentrated on fewer years and taught later in the system. We believe this will allow us to strengthen the teaching and improve the results in that particular language," said Mr Gudmarsson.

At upper secondary level, students will receive two compulsory years of Danish and will have the opportunity to do more if they choose. Iceland has had historical and cultural connections with Denmark since 1380.

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