On the 8th and 9th of September a conference on Language in early school years was hold in Amsterdam. At this meeting attended professionals (policy makers, experts, academics) from Germany, Austria and The Netherlands. The objective was to stimulate policy development in language policy in early school years for migrant children (from age 4 to 10), aiming to further improve the educational position of migrant children in the EU countries.
Some of the issues and conclusions of the meeting are:
- There is a great need for creating awareness among teachers of the importance of multilingualism. Creating intercultural sensitivity. Creating awareness of what language means to and for teachers themselves. Using personal experience.
- Seeing the importance using of multilingualism in welcome classes for newcomers.
- Multilingualism is a competence instead of a delay.
- Importance of knowledge exchange and learn from each other.
- Value the (linguistic) competences of the students. From Germany: Importance of a systematic strategy for newcomers and to make a policy for this and a strategy for how to deal with this theme (In Germany education policy is federal). With interest in the success of the newcomers. We shouldn’t devalue competences newcomers bring with them and language is an important competence. Valuing competences of the children is a very good strategy.
- Focus on second language acquisition. We do it more or less in every country. We have the same starting point but operate differently.
- Language is important for the whole education not only for language education. In Germany and Austria there is awareness that there are children for who the host language is a second language. Also in the Netherlands there is an awareness that there are children for who Dutch isn’t their first language, but since 2004 we are politically focussed on learning the Dutch language and most of the mother tongue education classes have disappeared.
The report with the conclusions will be published soon.