Migrant children ‘should use native language with Dutch in school’

Children of new migrants and asylum seekers should be taught in their native languages as well as Dutch, according to new guidance to primary schools from the education ministry.

The advice is a departure from the last 20 years in which immersive education in Dutch has been seen as the best way to integrate children from elsewhere.

One of the authors, Maaike Hajer, said research had shown that migrant children feel more settled when they are able to use their native language in the classroom. ‘It is very important to build on that basis,’ she told NOS Radio 1 Journaal.




Hajer said using other languages did not necessarily have a negative impact on children’s progress in Dutch. ‘They don’t have to stand in each other’s way; they can support each other,’ she said.

She said one option was to enlist more multilingual staff, as happens in countries such as Sweden. ‘You can let children explain things to each other, or use Google Translate, or parents can play a role. There are all kinds of possibilities.’