Children should start learning English as soon as they begin at a Dutch primary school at the age of four, a government advisory group said on Thursday.
In addition, schools should focus far more on pupils as individuals, according to preliminary recommendations by the Education Platform 2032, set up to advise on the future of the Dutch educational system.
‘Young children find it easy to pick up a second language,’ the report says. ‘In addition, it helps their general language skills. Primary schools currently giving English lessons are positive about the experience.’
Last month, European statistics agency Eurostat said just over half of the children at Dutch primary schools are exposed to a second language, well below the European average. Of the 17.7 million primary school children in Europe, 82% are learning a foreign language, usually English.
The advisory committee says in the main, children should learn about subjects which are relevant for their future. ‘If the Netherlands wants to maintain its top three position, education needs to be made more future proof,’ the platform’s chairman Paul Schnabel told news agency ANP.
‘It is crucial to make fundamental choices about the subjects on offer. Put in black and white terms, you don’t go to school to win a general knowledge quiz. You go to school to learn things which are relevant to your future.’
While writing and arithmetic remain essential for all pupils, there needs to be more focus on their practical applications, the recommendations state.
The plaform’s report will now be discussed by officials, teachers, parents and other organisations. The final report will be drawn up by the end of the year.
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