Oh no! Save them from intellectual diversity!
Finnish students sitting for a listening comprehension exam in the English language on Monday were surprised to run into a text excerpt from the conservative news site Breitbart. Investigation reveals that the same exams relied on Breitbart texts in 2011 as well.
Before they can graduate, upper secondary school pupils in Finland sit for gruelling matriculation exams that play a large part in determining their future prospects. Finns tend to learn several languages in school and many chose to learn English from a young age. It follows that every student that took the longer-form English comprehension tests in 2011 and 2017 was therefore exposed to the Breitbart texts. In 2017 alone, this number was estimated at close to 18,000 students.
The Association of Teachers of English in Finland’s chair, Eija Venäläinen, says that while Breitbart is considered a very controversial site now, that wasn’t the case back in 2015 and 2009 when the exams in question were being prepared. She says she would understand the criticism better if the sections that were chosen focused on a political issue.
“The excerpts that were included in the listening exam were neutral, and not politically charged… [I think] it’s a good thing that we use a variety of text sources in the exams,” Venäläinen explains.
She feels that the critical reaction to the Breitbart texts has perhaps been blown out of proportion. She says her English language teacher’s organization has not felt compelled to make contact with the people who drew up the exam or with the Finnish National Agency for Education.