Almost 14 percent of elementary school students in Iceland have a language other than Icelandic as their mother tongue.
In total, there were 47,115 students in Icelandic elementary schools in the fall of 2022, which is a record number according to Statistics Iceland. Of these, 6,570, or 14 %, have a mother tongue other than Icelandic, also a record. In comparison, the number was 2318 in 2010, an increase of about 180 %. The most common foreign mother tongue of students in elementary schools is Polish with an increasing number of children of English, Arabic, Spanish, Filipino, or Ukrainian speaking backgrounds.
In response to this growing diversity, Icelandic schools have been implementing new policies and practices to better accommodate these students. For example, many schools now offer language classes for non-Icelandic speaking students to help them learn Icelandic more quickly and integrate more easily into the school community.
Additionally, teachers are receiving training on how to work with students who have different cultural backgrounds and languages, with an emphasis on creating inclusive and welcoming classroom environments. This can include incorporating students' cultural backgrounds and traditions into lessons and activities, as well as providing additional support to students who may struggle with language barriers.
One of the key challenges facing schools with non-Icelandic speaking students is ensuring that these students have access to the same educational opportunities as their Icelandic-speaking peers. This can include providing additional language support, as well as ensuring that students have access to resources and materials in their own language.
Overall, the growing diversity of elementary school students in Iceland presents both challenges and opportunities for schools and educators. By embracing this diversity and implementing policies and practices that support all students, regardless of their background or language, schools can create more inclusive and welcoming learning environments that benefit all students.
Source: Statistics Iceland