The education minister wants to see all children take a Dutch language test before starting primary school. Pupils who perform badly will receive extra Dutch language lessons.
Starting September 2020 children are obliged to take schooling from the age of 5 instead of 6. In practice this means that children will have to be educated from the time they qualify for the third year of kindergarten. Mr Weyts says “Let’s use this extra time to test language skills as early as possible. I wish to introduce a uniform test for the whole of Flanders, identical for everybody, at the level of 5 and 6-year-olds. In this way we can intervene as early as possible. Everybody speaks of opportunity. Well, children who don’t have sufficient Dutch, don’t have equal opportunities. We should ensure that they start with equal opportunities.”
The minister doesn’t want to bar children with poor skills from primary school, but says the gap can only get wider if there is no intervention. He suggests language emersion classes or a language emersion year.
When exactly the test will be launched is unclear, but Mr Weyts is determined to see there is a scientific approach.
Kindergartens are now getting as much money as primary schools. Mr Weyts wants the money used to have more teachers in class. “At present too many teachers spend time changing nappies” says the education minister.
The obligation to receive schooling doesn’t mean that children have to go to school. Still, most do and Mr Weyts hopes to see even more children in kindergarten. At present 90% of this age category does attend.