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Expat kids: diversity and multilingualism in primary schools

AUAS is investigating the role of English in regular primary school education, in several ways.

21 Jan 2019 14:55 | Communication

The number of expat children in primary education is set to increase in the years ahead, meaning that levels of multilingualism in classes will also rise. Not only is the number of expats in the Amsterdam region growing, but they are increasingly choosing to send their children to regular primary schools. The PABO (teacher training college for primary education) programme at AUAS is responding to this development.

Ramon Puras, dean of the Faculty of Training (FOO): “Our programme has chosen a curriculum that teaches students to deal with differences, particularly in Amsterdam. During their internships, each student will gain experience of the diversity in the city. Multilingualism is a component of this diversity, and much more attention has been devoted to diversity in the PABO programme in recent years. It doesn’t matter in this respect whether these children are from families with a high, intermediate or low level of education.” 

Cooperation with school management

Johan Jelsma, PABO manager: “We have achieved a lot in recent years in terms of strengthening our cooperation with school managements in the city. For example, we provide for the growing demand for teachers specialised in dealing with differences.” One example of this is a minor and a specialisation in teaching in English, both for teachers in primary and in intermediate education. The minor was added in response to growing demand for education in English alongside Dutch. 

Investigating the role of English

AUAS is investigating the role played by English in education in several ways. Alessandra Corda, programme manager at the secondary level teacher training programme Languages and project leader at the Expertise Centre for Modern Languages, has written with colleagues about the early introduction of English in primary schools. “The most important conclusion is that starting early, for example in their first year (Group 1), does not guarantee better performance in their last year (Group 8) in all aspects of linguistic competence than pupils who started English later.” 

Together with Louise Taylor, a teacher in PABO and in the teacher training programme English, Corda is currently involved in a large, national survey of the level of English at the end of primary education. The results will be announced later this year. Corda: “Of course, the results of this survey will have a direct effect on the English programme in the PABO.”

The introduction of the compulsory national speaking competence in English test for the PABO was also supported in part from AUAS. Corda: “Together with colleagues, we provided concrete recommendations on the best tests to use for this. AUAS was also involved in the first pilot.” On the basis of their expertise, several AUAS personnel are also advising on the redesign of the core curriculum in primary and intermediate education.

See the website for more information on PABO at AUAS (in Dutch).