English becomes second language in Flanders

The Flemish Government has approved Education Minister Pascal Smet's Language Policy Document that grants equal footing to English as a second language in Flemish education side by side with French.

Flanders' socialist Education Minister wants the Flemings to acquire greater language skills. In future primary schools will be able to organise French language lessons from the third year onwards. Language initiation in English and German may also start in the third year.

English is being promoted and becomes the second language in Flemish education in addition to French that already enjoyed this distinction. Mr Smet insists that his decision does not mean that French is being relegated.

Language immersion lessons become possible in Flemish secondary schools starting 2013. In future subjects like geography and history may be taught in English or French. Minister Smet: "Up to twenty per cent of all lessons may be taught in another language."

The minister stressed that pupils will never be obliged to take ordinary topics in a foreign language. There will always be a Dutch language alternative.

Mr Smet points to the status of English as a 'world language': "If we want to count in the future, it's important that we all can speak this language."

In Mr Smet's Language Policy Document German retains its status as 'fourth language'. Schools will also be able to choose an alternative if there is interest among pupils and parents. Chinese, Russian and Hindi are among the new options.