First Dutch Olympiad to test pupils’ skills and knowledge


The University of Antwerp will host the competition to test pupils’ skills and highlight the importance of studying Dutch language and literature

Alive and kicking

The first Dutch Olympiad – a test of pupils’ Dutch language skills – is being organised by the University of Antwerp, together with Dutch universities Utrecht and Radboud. The aim is to put the study of the Dutch language and culture back on the map as an exciting and challenging discipline for today’s young people.

“The study of Dutch is alive and kicking, and probably more fascinating than ever, only today’s school children aren’t sufficiently aware of that,” said Kevin Absillis, professor of Dutch literature at UAntwerp and one of the Olympiad’s organisers.

The scope of the competition, which is supported by the Dutch Language Union, goes beyond spelling and grammar. It will involve a series of puzzles in the field of linguistics, literature, cultural history and communication.

“The Olympiad is an opportunity to show that being able to read and write Dutch is, and remains, crucial,” said Absillis, “but that Dutch studies are now also concerned with issues such as artificial intelligence, gaming, language acquisition, cultural identity and processing our colonial past.”

Skills shortage

Schools will be approached shortly with more information about the registration procedure and practice materials. The competition will take place in the 2019-2020 school year. A first round will be organised at schools in Flanders and the Netherlands, with the best performing teams going on to the final.

Dutch is declining in popularity as a school subject as well as a study programme at universities. UAntwerp says that the number of its students studying Dutch is stable, but that there is an unmet demand for the skills they are learning.

“Flanders urgently needs more Dutch specialists,” says Valerie Rousseau of UAntwerp’s Dutch literature department. “Just in the Flemish education system, there will be a significant shortage in the coming years.”