HDW

"Dutch language immersion for children without basic Dutch"

The Flemish nationalist party wants children who fail to master Dutch properly after kindergarten to be obliged to take a year-long Dutch immersion course.  The measure is one of the planks on which the N-VA will fight next May's general election.

For N-VA education is an important election battleground.  It claims the quality of education has deteriorated, partly due to language issues.  Zuhal Demir, a former Belgian equal opportunities secretary, says she wants to trash taboos. She points to existing opportunities for schools to organise year-long language immersion courses, but the failure of many schools to do so.

She favours a screening in kindergarten.  If basic knowledge is lacking children will be taught Dutch for an entire year: "They may lose a year, but will gain a diploma and a whole life" says Ms Demir, who is of Kurdish heritage.

"Where I live in Genk, I see an education backlog generated by a language backlog.  Many teachers are drowning because there are so many children in the class with poor Dutch language skills."

"Dutch would be central, but other subjects would be taught. By explaining Dutch terms you can teach maths.

Jo De Ro, a liberal city cabinet member for education in Vilvoorde (Flemish Brabant) accuses Ms Demir of electioneering.  He points to Vilvoorde where municipal schools fund their own course for non-Dutch-speakers: "How many N-VA city cabinet members do the same?" he asks.