There has been a low level of language and arithmetic skills among schoolchildren for many years. Currently 24 percent of 15-year-olds do not achieve the minimum reading level and 16 percent are below the norm in mathematics. In primary education the situation is even more alarming, according to the Education Council. Today the Council published an advisory report at the request of the House of Representatives.

Permanent focus

In the report, Council Chair Edith Hooge argues that language and arithmetic teaching gets a boost every five to ten years, “after which attention fades again”. She advocates a permanent focus on the part of the government, teacher training programmes, researchers and “teachers from all disciplines”.

It is particularly important for graduate teachers to be capable of providing good language and arithmetic teaching. That seems not to be the case at present. A significant proportion of the students graduate even though the teacher trainers do not consider them ready to start teaching.

Consequently, the Education Council wants mandatory national tests for students at teacher training colleges and in secondary education teacher training programmes in Dutch and mathematics. The aim of this would be to establish whether students have sufficient skills to be able to teach language and arithmetic.

Other disciplines

It is also important for language and arithmetic to be taught in other disciplines and for teachers of Dutch and mathematics to coordinate this better with colleagues in other disciplines. The Council did not look at the language and arithmetic skills of students in other teacher training programmes but thinks that this ought to be done. The Council’s view is that there should perhaps be a central final exam for them too.

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