From the school year 2021-2022 onwards, a language test will be compulsory for all children in the third pre-school class. The aim is that pre-schoolers can catch up on any language deficits during the rest of the school year. Children who start primary school with a language deficiency often also lag behind in other areas. Now that the age of compulsory education has been lowered to five years, all children have to go to the third kindergarten class. And that is an opportunity to use screening to detect and remedy language deficiencies in all children in time.
The language test, the so-called KOALA test, takes place between 10 October and 30 November. If the delay at the end of kindergarten is still too great, the class council can advise to postpone the transfer to the primary school. This can be in the form of a language immersion class, or another full-fledged alternative.
For the language integration routes that follow the language screening, schools for ordinary primary education will receive 12 million euros in the school year 2021-2022, in the form of care points. The distribution of these funds is based on the number of 4-year-old preschoolers whose home language is not Dutch.
Action plan to promote reading reading
Reading is one of the foundations of education. Reading is essential for all other subjects, crucial for lifelong learning and for just about all aspects of life. However, PISA and PIRLS have long held up the red card for reading comprehension. Flanders must not fall any further: in the meantime, 20% of the 10 and 15 year-olds do not reach the minimum level for reading. The Reading Action Plan (LOF) tackles this simultaneously on all fronts (education-free time-early literacy...) since autumn 2021 until 2030. The problem is deep-rooted. The approach is therefore inevitably wide-ranging, long-term and high-level.
The Flemish Government now wants to turn the tide with a major reading action plan. From September 2022 onwards, various actions will be rolled out as part of the action plan. They will focus on strengthening reading skills (technical reading, reading comprehension and reading motivation). In the actions that are started from an educational perspective, special attention is paid to children from the 3rd kindergarten to the 1st grade and to TSO/BSO pupils.
The Flemish Minister of Culture and the Flemish Minister of Education are making some two million euros available for this purpose next year alone. An action plan has been prepared with dozens of new initiatives.
There will also be a broad and attractive promotional campaign for reading, by analogy with the STEM campaigns. Flanders also wants to move away from short-term actions with no long-term effect: from now on, programmes will last at least three years and there will be objectives that look nine years into the future. Good reading practices must be spread much more widely via so-called learning networks. It is also the intention to give child minders, nursery school teachers and teachers much more tools to read with and for children and young people. Therefore, more attention will be paid to language and reading in training.
Language stimulating activities
The Dutch language stimulation activities that were first organised during the summer holidays of 2020 at various locations in Flanders and Brussels will continue until the summer of 2022. For this purpose, subsidies are granted to the organising bodies. These language stimulation activities are intended for children and young people up to the age of 18.
All children in the third pre-school class must take a language test
Starting this school year, a language test is compulsory for all children in the third pre-school class. The aim is that pre-schoolers can catch up on any language deficiency during the rest of the school year.
Children who start primary school with a language deficiency often also lag behind in other areas. Now that the age of compulsory education has been lowered to five years, all children have to go to the third kindergarten class. And that is an opportunity to use screening to detect and remedy language deficiencies in all children in time.
The so-called KOALA test must take place between 10 October and 30 November. The schools themselves can choose the moment and can, for example, also opt to test the oldest pre-schoolers in mid-October and the youngest only at the end of November. The dates are chosen so that the children have time after the summer holidays to catch up, but also so that there is enough time in the school year to brush up on pupils with a language deficiency.
If the delay at the end of the nursery class is still too great, the class council can advise to postpone the transfer to the primary school. If parents do not follow this advice, a language integration path will be imposed on the child in the first year. In principle, this is a language immersion class, or a full-fledged alternative.
For the language integration routes that follow the language screening, schools for mainstream primary education will receive 12 million euros in the school year 2021-2022, in the form of care points. The distribution of these resources is based on the number of 4-year-old preschoolers whose home language is not Dutch.
Compulsory school age
In spring 2019, the federal government decided to reduce the compulsory education age from 6 to 5 years from 1 September 2020. Toddlers must attend school for a minimum of 290 half-days per school year. For pupils who did not attend 290 half-days as a 5-year old in the school year 2020-2021, the class councils for pre-school and primary education are competent to decide whether the child can enter ordinary primary education at the age of 6. The required number of half-days attendance for a 5-year old in function of the growth package (see 14.5) has also been increased to 290 half-days. The lowering of the compulsory school age should further increase "pre-school participation" in order to help eliminate social inequalities (see annual review 2019).
Language screening ECEC
Pre-school education lays the foundations for sufficient knowledge of Dutch and ensures that more children start their educational career with equal opportunities. All five to six-year-olds will take a uniform and cross-domain standardized language screening. Based on the results of the language screening, pupils who do not have sufficient command of the Dutch language must follow an active Dutch language integration programme. This includes a language immersion class or an alternative that leads to the same results. The language screening instrument is currently being developed.