Language use at home can indicate success at school

Summary

A study of multilingual children in Brussels, Ghent and Limburg has highlighted various indicators of school performance based on language use

Two-year study

How multilingual children use language at home is a good indicator of how well they will do at school, according to a study published by the Flemish education ministry. Other indicators of school performance include Dutch reading skills and language use on the playground. It was found that children who always spoke Dutch on the playground performed better.

Multilingualism as Reality at School was carried out by researchers from Ghent University and the Free University of Brussels (VUB). For two years, they studied the performances of fourth-year pupils at 212 primary schools in Brussels, Ghent and former mining towns in Limburg such as Beringen.

They also found that multilingual pupils used different language registers depending on the context or who they were talking to. They spoke Dutch with their parents and siblings more often than expected, regularly used Dutch-language media and often preferred to calculate, read and write in Dutch.

The researchers advise the method of “functional multilingual learning” – encouraging pupils to develop their Dutch but also paying enough attention to their multilingual background.

Education minister Hilde Crevits has asked the Flemish Education Council, Vlor, to create a new framework for an active language policy at schools. One considered good practice is the language passport, with which pupils can indicate what languages they speak with whom and in which context.

Photo courtesy sp.a