VVD: International students must learn Dutch

​The Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) wants all international students to take compulsory language courses while studying in the Netherlands.

The proposal is aimed at increasing the chances of foreign students to join the Dutch labour force and contribute to the economy. During a consultation between the House of Representatives and the Minister of Education, VVD representative Pieter Duisenberg expressed his concern that the possibilities for international students to learn Dutch are too noncommittal and insisted that international students are not discouraged by the prospect of following a mandatory language course.

“A voluntary language course is too nonbinding,” Duisenberg said. “Students often moaned that they were quite willing to take a course but it never happened.” Moreover, the representative claimed that requiring international students to learn Dutch is a “win-win situation”, enhancing the students’ learning experience and providing them with an extra advantage when entering the labour market. “We must not only invest in the studies,” Duisenberg said, “but also maximize the chance that the student will then contribute to the Dutch economy.”

Despite the VVD’s good intentions, Dutch Education Minister Jet Bussemaker conveyed her reluctance concerning the proposal. “I completely agree with Mr. Duisenberg that foreign students should have a better command of the [Dutch] language, but I am very hesitant about in making it mandatory,” the Minister said. According to Bussemaker, this obligation may potentially prohibit the recruitment of foreign students by Dutch firms. “[Students] also come to the Netherlands precisely because we have a wide range of English language education,” the Minister claimed. Requiring international students to learn Dutch may therefore make education in the country appear less attractive.

“I think this [measure] will hurt the entire Dutch education system,” says TU Delft Assistant Professor Alexandru Iosup. “If you impose this rule, then you will probably lose ninety percent of your students […] Students from China, India and Germany are not willing to speak Dutch at the level of getting a real education in that language. They will completely forfeit participation in the Dutch society.” Although Iosup is against the proposal, he believes that integration is important, particularly among international employees, and that something must be done to incentivize it.

Currently, the Ministry of Education is developing on an online portal for language courses and is planning to launch a serious game for students to learn to Dutch. “Naturally, it also has to do with the wording,” Bussemaker said. “If you immediately say in the first sentence, ‘you have to learn Dutch here, right away,’ I think that it is not very attractive. But if you say ‘we have an opportunity for you to learn the language,’ then you have another message.” Despite her apprehension with the VVD’s proposal, Bussemaker is willing to discuss the matter further with several institutions and to investigate whether the requirement is indeed a potential barrier to the recruitment of international students.

Editor Redactie

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