MPs demand language test for all toddlers

The cabinet has agreed to look into the idea of making children take a Dutch language test before their third birthday. Those who fail the test would be sent to pre-school language classes, a majority of MPs agreed.

The proposal was initiated by Liberal (VVD) leader Mark Rutte during the second day of the general debate on the 2007 budget yesterday. According to the Volkskrant, all the major parties, with the exception of the green party GroenLinks and the left-wing D66, support the move. However, Rutte said the € 4 mln the government has allocated for language lessons for pre-school children was ‘totally insufficient’, the paper reported. Other concessions won by MPs yesterday include an increase in disability (WAO) benefits to 75% from 70% of the last earned salary, an agreement to look into pay differentials in the education sector and a plan to tackle shoplifting.
Instead of the anticipated ‘battle of the titans’ the confrontation between Christian Democrat prime minister Jan Pieter Balkenende and Labour (PvdA) leader Wouter Bos the debate was, in the words of the players themselves, respectively ‘a zero-zero’ draw and a ‘trashy debate’. Despite repeated attempts by Bos to draw Balkenende him into a pre-election discussion, the prime minister remained resolute in his role as ‘leader of the country’.

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