Kids can speak mother tongue at schools in Go! network

Summary

Flanders’ Go! education network has loosened up its rules around language and are now allowing primary schools to let pupils speak their first language or Dutch dialects to other pupils if the need arises

Language should have ‘a positive place’ at school

Pupils in primary schools that are part of the Go! educational network who do not speak Dutch at home are now allowed to speak their first languages on the school playground – and even in the classroom. This was previously against school policy, with all children being forced to speak Dutch at all times.

That policy was counterproductive, according to the Go! network, which manages schools across Flanders and Brussels. “Pupils feel better when their mother tongue has a positive place in the school environment,” said director Raymonda Verdyck. “They then make a much easier transition to Dutch.”

The idea is to let children speak their own languages – and that includes Dutch dialects – when they are not in class but to also be allowed to explain something to other pupils in their own language during lessons should the need arise. If they are involved in a group project and discuss it in their mother tongues, that would also be OK, for example, as long as the project was then presented to the class in Dutch.

“Standard Dutch will of course remain the language in which all lessons are given,” said Verdyck. “The intention is that all pupils become fluent in Dutch when at school.”

The other two school networks are also developing more flexible policies when it comes to language rules at school. Flemish education minister Hilde Crevits supports the changes as long as Dutch remains the official language of instruction, she said.

Photo courtesy Catholic Education Network

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