Established in 1998, Boiseko Ikastola is the only Basque preschool in the World that is located outside of the Basque country. Founded by local parents in Boise’s Basque community, the school focuses on preserving Euskara, the native Basque language, within Boise while also teaching the students respect for other cultures and ways of life. This total-immersion school is certified by the State Board of Education and open to all people interested in introducing their child to bilingual learning.
Backstory and Context
During the early 1900s when a large number of Basque immigrants began to settle in the American West, most had no knowledge of the English language and only spoke Euskara, the native Basque language. Although this created a barrier in communication between others in the Boise area, it also created a tight-knit, connected community among the Basques in Boise. Euskara is known to be a language isolate, meaning that it is not related to any other language in the world. The Basques take a lot of pride in their language and see it as a symbol of their culture and identity. Although many Basques in Boise still speak Euskara, over time the number of fluent speakers has decreased significantly.
As a result in 1998, a group of Basque parents, in an effort to preserve Euskara among the newest generation of Basque Americans, established a Basque preschool called Boiseko Ikastola. With the help of the Basque Museum & Cultural Center, they created a State Board of Education approved preschool that specializes in teaching the Basque Language and culture to its kids. This unique language immersion school is the only Basque preschool outside of the Basque Country and keeps a close relationship with the Basque Government. In the early years of the school, the Basque Government supplied educational materials based on their own curriculum and even provided the first instructor. Boiseko Ikastola remains an active Basque preschool that is open to all families, both Basque and non- Basque. It focuses on small classes that teach Euskara and Basque culture while actively demonstrating the importance of cultural education and the benefits of multilingualism during childhood development.
Mackey, Meggan Laxalt. Lekuak: The Basque Places of Boise, Idaho. Reno, Nevada. Center for Basque Studies Press, 2018.
Boiseko Ikastola Preschool, Basque Museum & Cultural Center. Accessed June 26th 2020. https://basquemuseum.eus/learn/boiseko-ikastola-preschool/.
History of Boiseko Ikastola, Boiseko Ikastola. Accessed June 26th 2020. https://www.boisekoikastola.org/about-us.