News - October 12, 2011

'Don't neglect Dutch language education'

Both academic and applied sciences universities should explain better why their teaching is so often in English, says the Education Council in a report that came out on 11 October. The Council thinks it is odd that not a single educational institution gives any reasons in its annual report for the language of instruction in its programmes.

According to the Law on Higher Education, the language of instruction in Dutch universities is Dutch. It is permissible to depart from this norm if either the type of education or the origin of the students makes it appropriate. In practice, all the universities make extensive use of English, particularly at the Master's stage. More than half the postgraduate programmes are taught in English. In technical and agricultural Master's programmes, the figure is around 94 percent.
The Education Council understands why English is so often the language of instruction: the Netherlands attracts a lot of foreign students and lecturers. But higher education should not neglect the Dutch language, says the council. 'Higher education is the guardian of Dutch language and culture.'
There is evidence that Dutch-speaking teachers do not teach as well when they do so in English, and that students do not learn as much when they are taught in English. On the other hand, other research suggests that this negative impact disappears after six months. Possible disadvantages can be compensated for, according to the report. For example, the use of English as 'one of the languages of instruction in primary and secondary education' should be encouraged, so that future students are better equipped.