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Flanders loses edge in language education

Published on 08/08/2005

8 August 2005

BRUSSELS — Flanders is still among the top echelon of nations when it comes to teaching students a foreign language in the final years of secondary schooling, the latest OECD report indicates.

However, other nations have overtaken Flanders in primary school education and even the first few years of secondary education, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported on Monday.
Flanders had for decades enjoyed a reputation for being the best in terms of foreign language education. The Dutch-speaking region’s education system has not declined; other nations have simply improved.

In upper secondary education, Flemish students are taught on average 2.6 foreign languages. Only two other countries perform better: Luxembourg (3.3) and Finland (2.8).
The Swiss, Danes and French students are close behind with averages of 1.9 to 2.1, while other countries perform much worse.
In lower secondary education, Flemish students pick up just 1.4 languages. Luxembourg, Finland, the Netherlands, Greece, Switzerland, Denmark and even France perform better. 

And Flanders is almost the worst performer in primary education with just 34 percent of pupils taught a second language. Only the Netherlands and Ireland perform worse.
The figures do not come as a complete surprise to Flanders, which has realised for some time it was losing its edge. The Flemish government recently adopted legislation expanding language education in primary schools.

It also made it possible to give “language initiation” lessons to pupils in kindergarten.

However, the OECD figures can also be downplayed. The number of languages taught says nothing about the quality of that education. The actual level of understanding of a new language was not investigated.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news