In the academic year 2017/2018, 119 secondary schools in the Netherlands offered bilingual education. This means that certain parts of the curriculum are taught in another language, particularly English. Research shows that students who participate in education partially provided in English have a greater command of the language. One important factor in education is the quality of the course material. Course material in English must be of the same quality as course material in Dutch.
Bilingual Education In the Netherlands
In bilingual education, students are taught subjects such as geography or PE in English. In addition, these schools also offer international activities, such as language trips and exchanges. In the Netherlands, 36,254 students currently participate in bilingual education. The 119 schools that offer bilingual education are divided into three levels: pre-university education (VWO), senior general secondary education (HAVO) and preparatory vocational secondary education (VMBO). Of all Dutch provinces, South Holland has the largest share of bilingual schools, namely 32. It is particularly notable that more first-year students who have followed bilingual education expect to go abroad during their studies than compared to students who have followed regular secondary education.
Bilingual education is most common in secondary education. Teachers have followed special bilingual education training that focuses on language skills. The second language in which bilingual education is provided is chiefly English. At HAVO and VWO levels, at least 50% of lessons are taught in the other language, whereas at VMBO level this is 30%. The quality of the lessons must be the same as in Dutch. This can be a particular challenge for bilingual education, since not all course material is available in multiple languages.
The Benefits of Bilingual Education
Being able to fluently speak English as a second language offers many academic benefits, among other things. Students who have participated in bilingual education have more self-knowledge when it comes to self-regulation and task orientation. In addition, they master both the English and Dutch language in both word and writing. The social aspect of being able to speak two language is also worth mentioning. For many people this is the number one reason for learning a second language. Students who participate in bilingual education from an early age not only have the same basic knowledge, but often perform at the same level as students who are educated in English-speaking countries.
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