Three primary schools in Hilversum, one in Amsterdam and one in The Hague are among the 12 schools singled out to run trials of bilingual education for children aged four to 12.
Junior education minister Sander Dekker announced details of the trials on Wednesday, saying bilingual primary education will lead to worldly children and, in time, better personnel and a stronger competitive position.
‘Dutch children will earn their daily bread in a world where it will be more important than ever to speak good English as well as Dutch,’ Dekker said in a statement. ‘Because they are young, they pick up languages more easily.’
Researchers at Utrecht and Groningen universities have shown children who learn English at a young age progress further without damaging their Dutch, Nos television said.
Last year, 965 Dutch primary schools offered English lessons and around 100 also had German, French and Spanish on offer, Nos said. The bilingual schools will offer traditional lessons such as geography and biology in English. Up to 50% of the teaching time will be in English.
Secondary school English teacher Arjen de Korte told Nos the switch to bilingual education will demand a lot from teachers.
Secondary schools find it difficult to cope with many different skill levels, he said, and children who have gone to a bilingual primary school may become lazy. Teachers will also have to be trained to teach in English, he pointed out.
Eight more schools will join the experiment in 2015 and the results will be assessed in 2019. The education ministry statement did not say if extra funding will be made available to ensure teachers’ English skills are up to scratch.
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