Education minister asks foreign parents to embrace Dutch

Flemish education minister Hilde Crevits believes that too many parents of children from the ethnic minorities are not sufficiently involved in the school life of their children. In general children with a foreign background do less well at school. Schools already receive significant means to address this issue, but the minister insists that it is of great importance that parents are involved actively and in a positive way in the learning of Dutch and school life in general.
© Reporters / Michel Gouverneur

Research among 15-year-olds has shown that there is a gap between the performance of youngsters who speak Dutch at home and those that don't. Remarkably children of the second generation are not performing better either.

Hilde Crevits: "Schools have invested in extra means and material to ensure children are able to learn the language. To force a breakthrough I now want their parents to take an active involvement in school life."

Ms Crevits sees language as a means of bonding people together, in schools, but also in associations and clubs. "If children learn Dutch at school and speak a different language at home it can be a richness, but it's of great importance that parents are actively involved in school life."

The education minister stresses that she is not rebuking parents from the ethnic minorities: "We're asking these parents who do not speak Dutch to stress the importance of learning the language. Today many schools go in search of creative ways of involving the parents of non-Dutch-speaking children by organising activities that show great respect for the culture the parents come from. Hilde Crevits: "This has to be two-way traffic involving the schools, but also the parents. Schools have expectations when parents register their children, participation in PTA meetings, excursions, school festivals. By doing things together you learn an awful lot."

"The message has to be: by all working together to acquire the language we can give children greater opportunities."

Ms Crevits also wants children from the ethnic minorities to consider a job in education: "We see very few children from the ethnic minorities looking for a job in education. It would be very positive if they did so in order to increase the involvement of parents from the ethnic minorities."