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UCLL study investigates impact on pupils who follow certain courses in a foreign language

14 January 2020

Students (pupils) who follow certain subjects in secondary school in a language other than Dutch have a significantly better knowledge of that foreign language than those who do not. This is apparent from the first large-scale study of this type of education in Flanders, Belgian media reports today. "It is done without detracting from their knowledge of Dutch", it sounds to the researchers from the University College Leuven-Limburg.

UC Leuven - Limburg

Pupils in Flemish secondary education have been able to follow subjects such as history and geography in English, French or German since 2014. For the first time since its introduction, a major study has been carried out into the effects of this so-called CLIL education in Flanders.

The researchers surveyed and intensively monitored some 1,600 pupils from the first and second secondary schools. "For example, we surveyed each pupil individually in a classroom to find out how they speak the foreign language", explains researcher Liesbeth Martens of the UCLL university college.

They compared both pupils who are in a CLIL trajectory and their peers who are not. "Pupils who follow such a course speak and understand the language much better than pupils who are not in such a course", says Martens. Moreover, receiving lessons in languages other than Dutch does not seem to impair their knowledge of Dutch. Not unimportantly, because that was a fear when the trajectories were introduced.

The researchers do argue for more support for the teachers. Now they will not be given extra time to prepare a CLIL lesson. Moreover, the researchers propose to start lessons in a foreign language as early as in kindergarten and primary school. "The earlier pupils learn a foreign language, the better the results."

A relaxation of the language law in higher education should also ensure that more subjects are taught in English in the bachelor's programmes. This would involve no less than half of the bachelor's subjects. Historians and political scientists warn of the unification of higher education in an opinion piece in 'De Standaard'. "It is high time that the defenders of Dutch in Flanders took action", it sounds in 'De Standaard'.

"The reduction of Dutch to home-garden-and-kitchen language, like at the University of Twente, is not only a cultural problem. There are pedagogical risks associated with language impoverishment. In addition, we mainly see social objections. Higher education in Dutch is an important democratic achievement. The far-reaching unification of bachelors for market reasons seriously jeopardises that achievement", Gita Deneckere, Bruno De Wever and Bart Maddens warn.

Source: VRT, HLN
Translated by Leuven MindGate

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