Flanders eyes standardised testing of all preschoolers' Dutch language skills

Flanders eyes standardised testing of all preschoolers' Dutch language skills
Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts said not testing children's Dutch language skills does them a disservice. Credit: Belga

Preschoolers should be screened according to their proficiency in Dutch before heading to primary school as a way of boosting their future opportunities, Flanders' education minister said.

In a radio interview, Education Minister Ben Weyts said that he wanted to put in place a standardised Dutch test for all preschoolers in Flanders.

"Everyone always talks about equal opportunities. Well, children who don't know enough Dutch — they don't have equal opportunities," Weyts said on Radio 1.

Children heading to primary education would have their language levels tested, in what the minister said would be a way to allow education officials to intervene as early as possible to improve a child's language acquisition process.

Those who obtain unsatisfactory results in the test would be enrolled in an intensive Dutch language course in order to get them up to speed, Weyts said.

"You are not serving the [interest of] the children if they start [school] with a language deficit which will only get bigger," he said. "So if it turns out that a child does not know enough Dutch, let him take a 'language bath' class."

Weyts said the new test should be introduced as "quickly as possible," in order to take advantage of new education regulations which will see the age for compulsory schooling drop from 6 to 5 years old.

"I hope to do that as soon as possible," he said, all the while acknowledging that the creation of a standardised "scientifically-founded" test could "take some time."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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