Netherlands

Andrea Netten
Marian Bruggink
National Center for Language Education, Nijmegen

Language and Literacy

Dutch is the first official language in the Netherlands. Frisian, the second, is spoken by more than 350,000 people in the northern province of Friesland.1 Though Dutch is the first language of instruction in schools, Frisian or a regional dialect may be taught alongside Dutch. A minority of secondary schools offer Frisian as an optional final examination subject. English is the first foreign language students learn and is taught from the last two years of primary school onward. A growing number of primary schools (more than 1,150 in 2015) offer up to four hours of English lessons per week beginning in kindergarten.2

The ethnic composition of the people in the Netherlands is diverse, but the majority of the population is Dutch. In 2015, ethnic minorities accounted for 22 percent of the population. These minorities include people from Turkey, Morocco, Suriname, the Netherlands Antilles, and Indonesia, among other countries.3

The goal of the National Center for Language Education (Expertisecentrum Nederlands) is to improve the teaching and learning of Dutch language arts in preprimary, primary, and secondary schools. By undertaking research and development projects, the center studies school conditions that help students become skilled and motivated communicators and readers. In this respect, interactive language instruction is the focus of teaching Dutch as a first and second language. Interactive language instruction is intended to promote social, meaningful, and strategic learning.4