Just over half of the children at Dutch primary schools are exposed to a second language, well below the European average, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat.
Of the 17.7 million primary school children in Europe, 82% are learning a foreign language, usually English, Eurostat says. One million of them are learning two languages, the figures show.
Only Portugal, Belgium and Slovenia have fewer pupils learning a second language than the Netherlands.
In March, the Dutch parliament agreed primary schools will soon be able to conduct 15% of lessons in English, French or German in an effort to boost language skills.
Junior education minister Sander Dekker wants to extend the use of other languages following successful trials which show young children pick up foreign languages more quickly. It will be up to schools themselves whether or not to make use of the language option.
Dekker told MPs the quality of education will be retained but that encouraging children to learn foreign languages at an early age will boost the Netherlands’ competitive position.
Some 20 primary schools are also currently running experiments with completely bilingual education.
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