Dutch line up for Flemish schools
Flemish schools near the Dutch border are facing an influx of new pupils from Dutch homes, with more than 21,800 Dutch students registering in 2010, more than 8,000 of them in primary schools.
The reasons Dutch parents are increasingly opting for Flemish schools are several, school heads explained. While Flemish schools are open to children from the age of 2.5 years, in the Netherlands education only begins at four - day care must be paid until then for working parents. In addition, in Flemish schools, costs of extra-curricular activities for the year, such as museum visits, will not exceed a certain amount, fixed for the moment at €60.
Others have cited another reason: the superior quality of education in Flemish schools and, in particular, the level of politeness and discipline. According to Kathleen Van Gelder, director of a primary school in Essen, whose centre is barely 600 metres from the Dutch border, parents from the Netherlands "find that we at least teach children politeness and respect. Here they have to say ‘Miss' and ‘Sir' instead of ‘An' or ‘Mark'".
Now Dutch schools are striking back, with initiatives in Tilburg to encourage parents to send their children to local schools, in Hulst to allow toddlers of 2.5 into pre-school classes and in Roosendaal to force children who were taught in the Flemish system to pass an exam before allowing them into Dutch secondary schools.