Hello children: English lessons break through in Dutch daycare


At least 90 daycare centres for pre-school children in the Netherlands are teaching toddlers English, the AD said on Thursday. Creches are getting more requests for language teaching, not just at daycare centres with large number of expats, the paper said. The trend is particularly apparent in creches which share premises with a primary school. 'Parents are more internationally orientated and the increase in the number of bilingual primary schools is generating more demand for English at creches,' Karel Philipsen, director of Early Bird, which produces English lessons for daycare, told the AD. Researchers at the University of Amsterdam are following the trend and say young children are quicker to pick up a new language, but that there is a wide range of opinion about when to begin. They are currently studying the results at 17 daycare centres - 16 teaching English and one French - in a four year project on behalf of the social affairs ministry. 'At the end of the project we hope to be able to say how much time creches should devote to a second language and on which children is the impact most obvious,' research leader Folkert Kuiken told the AD. Radboud university linguistics researcher Sharon Unsworth told the paper that parents should not expect their children to speak fluent English after the creche lessons. 'Children are sponges and easily learn a foreign language, but they need to hear it enough to do so,' she said.  More >



AI braindrain depletes Dutch universities

Universities are facing a severe shortage of artificial intelligence lecturers as PhDs opt for jobs outside academia or go abroad, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Monday. At the moment some 90% of AI graduates already find work outside academia and there are fears that a recruitment drive by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States will be powerful pull on the remaining 10%. ‘The MIT will try to get our best graduates,' Maarten de Rijke, director of the new Dutch national institute for artificial intelligence ICAI told the paper. ‘If that happens we won’t have anyone to teach a new generation of scientists.’ AI is a very popular choice among students but, the FD writes, there are too few people to teach them. The combined Amsterdam universities only have a total of 30 lecturers, for example. Some 700 students wanted to do an AI Master’s degree in Amsterdam this year but there were only 200 places. One way of solving the problem would be to up university salaries, De Rijke said. University lecturers earn half that of an AI specialist in industry while in the United States salaries can be five times as high. But, De Rijke says, it is not just better salaries that will persuade people to stay on at the universities. An environment which offers cooperation with talented colleagues, access to the best data and career perspectives is also a major draw. However, he warned, a big hurdle is the lack of affordable housing. Earlier this year European scientists warned that Europe is lagging behind in the global AI race, with China and the US as leading investors, the FD said.  More >


Teacher sick? School asks parents to help

A primary school in Hoorn in Noord Holland has asked parents to help out in class if teachers are off sick for more than a day. The Het Kompas school has written to parents to explain the unusual request, stating that the aim is to stop pupils being sent home if a teacher is absent. The shortage of teachers means it is difficult to plug all the holes in the teaching roster, hence the appeal to parents as a last resort. 'We are asking parents just to supervise a classroom, not to play teacher,' head teacher Jaap Muurling told NH Nieuws. The classrooms will be equipped with special educational games so that the children will continue to learn while at play. In Lelystad last week, one class was sent home for an entire week because there were no teachers to fill in for an absent colleague. Last month, two school organisations in Zaanstad warned they may have to cut down to a four-day week because of a shortage of teaching staff. The organisations, Agora and Zaan Primair, say personnel numbers have been cut to such an extent that they will have no cover if teachers fall ill during the autumn flu season.  More >



Amsterdam student refused entry to UK

Glasgow University Legal experts have denounced the decision to refuse an Amsterdam University student from Bosnia entry to the UK to attend an academic conference as 'irrational' and 'nonsensical'. Nadza Dzinalija, 21, travelled to Glasgow for the six-day conference organised by the university's psychology department, but immigration officials said they were 'not satisfied' she would leave even though she had a return flight booked for October 29. The Home Office raised concerns because her student visa was due to expire in December, The Independent reported. Dzinalija, who is on the first year of a two-year masters programme, applied in September for an extension to her visa, which was expected to be granted. She said: 'I was really surprised. I’ve applied for a lot of visas before and this is the first time I’ve had this experience. I’m bitterly disappointed that I can’t attend.' Immigration expert Jan Doerfel said the UK government's insinuation that the student would use an academic conference as a pretext to enter the UK illegally was 'unlawful' and 'deeply insulting to Nadza’s integrity'. He added it was a further blow to the UK's reputation for academic excellence as universities gear up for the challenge of attracting and maintaining top talent after the country leaves the European Union next March. 'It portrays a feeling of superiority and arrogance not only towards applicants’ actual life choices but also towards our European neighbours, as well as an insensitivity towards needs of academic institutions in this country which aim to keep the UK attractive and at the cutting edge of scientific research,' said Doerfel.  More >



Schools facing supply teacher shortage

Schools are struggling with a shortage of supply teachers because replacement staff are being offered permanent contracts. A survey of seven regional agencies that provide teachers to stand in when regular staff are off sick or to cover a vacancy found they are having to refuse requests earlier in the school year than ever before. 'We had to turn down a request from a school in the first week of the year, which has never happened before,' an administrator in Zeeland told NOS. On average supply teacher agencies have lost a third of their personnel during the last school year, often as a result of schools offering permanent jobs to teachers who have stood in for a member of staff. 'The continuity of education is in doubt because of this,' said Joost Spijker, director of RTC Transvita, which supplies teaching cover to schools in Utrecht, Gelderland, Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland and saw 200 of its 500 teachers leave last year. 'Some schools don't even ask us any more because they know there's only a very small chance that we can provide a replacement.' Education minister Arie Slob pledged last week to invest an extra €21 million in addressing teacher shortages, partly by increasing opportunities for people in other professions to retrain.  More >



Extra money for trips to parliament

The cabinet is setting aside €18.5m to pay for school trips to the Binnenhof parliamentary complex in The Hague, the AD reported on Thursday. The money, double the current spending limit, will cover extra guides and educational material. Transportation, which had been a problem for some schools, will also be included so school children from all over the country can visit. At the moment some 40% of secondary school children make the trip to watch parliament in action, the AD said. The trips, which were agreed in the government accord but are not mandatory, are an incentive to learn about ‘the principles of the state of law and the fundamental values of our democracy,’ the paper quotes home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren as saying. ‘It’s a fun way of learning something that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives,’ the minister said. Plans to have all school children learn the national anthem and take them on an outing to the Rijksmuseum have not been a great succes so far, the AD writes. Schools are still working on including the Wilhelmus in the curriculum and it is up to individual schools to organise the trip to Amsterdam, the paper points out.  More >