Flemish Schools Going Trilingual – French, Dutch AND English

New rules ordered by the Flemish government will put English on the same level as French as a required “second language” as early as next year. This was decided on July 26th, when the Flemish government approved a new language proposal from Pascal Smet (SP.A), the Flemish minister of education.

Minister Smet, a man on a mission to improve the language skills of Flemish students and maintain the region’s solid multilingual reputation in Europe. Not that language education in Flanders has declined in recent years – but other countries have improved remarkably, and minister Smet thus wishes to raise the bar.

English is currently a “third language” in Flanders that can be taken on an elective basis – French and Dutch are required. Under Mr. Smet’s proposal, which is likely to be approved by the Flemish parliament before the year’s end, students will get equal amounts of English and French education. As Mr. Smet put it: “Flemings shouldn’t be bilingual, but trilingual”.

Additional Changes

Under the new Flemish law, language instruction will also begin in the 3rd year of school (age 9-10), two years earlier than currently. “It has been proven scientifically that the earlier kids start learning a language, the easier they will be able to master that language”, said Smet.

The new rules will also offer greater flexibility to schools in offering third and fourth languages as local demand requires – including languages from the BRICs (Brasil, Russia, India, China). Finally, schools will have the freedom to teach traditionally first-language subjects, like history or geography, in a language other than Dutch.

Taken from L’Anglophone: 01.08.11