The Dutch Onderwijsraad (Education Counsel) released a critical report that questions the use of English in the Dutch Higher Education. Last week the Counsel made a pledge for higher standards for both teachers’ and students’ English, as well as opportunities for foreign teachers and students to learn some of the Dutch language and culture.

‘A necessary trade-off’

How do students and teachers at EUR evaluate the use of English in their classes? According to Ayla Alders, a 3rd year IBCoM student from the Netherlands Antilles, teachers who speak insufficient English can be very frustrating: ‘If teachers are not able to communicate properly with the students, classes can be hard to follow and teachers are not taken seriously. Additionally, student assignments are graded on English grammar. But how can I be graded by a teacher if his or her own English skills are poor?’

Dr. G. Oonk, a history teacher at ESHCC, thinks the use of English can be seen as a necessary trade-off: ‘Giving and receiving education in English is more difficult for non-native speakers. However, it is necessary in order to further internationalize education and to remain in contact with the rest of the world.’ He also emphasizes that teachers at ESHCC have to have a certificate in order to teach English courses.

A potential problem

The Education Counsel acknowledges it’s necessary to provide foreign students with English programmes, but it wants to make sure the academic level doesn’t suffer.

In order to safeguard the quality of education in the Netherlands, teachers have to prove their English skills, and also have to be prepared to teach a group of many different nationalities and cultures. The Education Counsel also emphasizes the importance to introduce language tests for both Dutch and international students.

Cheese and windmills

The Education Counsel thinks it’s important to make foreign students and teachers feel connected to the Dutch society. According to the Counsel, students and teachers who stay in the Netherlands for more than a year should be given a chance to learn the Dutch culture and language to increase the chances of them wanting to stay in the Netherlands to support the Dutch knowledge economy. For instance, the EUR Language and Training Centre offers several Dutch courses throughout the year. This course has to be paid for by the students themselves, but EUR does offer a refund to a number of exchange students who registered first and who have successfully completed the course. IS