Switching to English detrimental for Netherlands education quality: study

Lecture Hall
. Source: Wikipedia/Xbxg32000

Colleges and universities in the Netherlands are too quick to switch to giving lectures and courses in English, according to researchers from the Dutch academy of sciences KNAW. They put the quality of education under pressure by not paying enough attention to whether lecturers and students have a proper grasp of English before switching, the researchers conclude, AD reports.

According to the researchers, lecturers do have to pass a language test to check their English ability, but passing the test does not necessarily mean they can teach in English. And students who don't have a good handle on the language are less likely to ask questions if they don't understand. This means that discussions in the lecture halls are more difficult than if the class were given in Dutch, the researchers say, according to AD.

Universities and colleges must put more consideration into how and whether they should switch to English, paying attention to what they want to achieve with the switch. "The choice of the education language must be deliberately made and not automated", they conclude. And the quality of the course must be a deciding factor.

According to the researchers, the number of English courses at Dutch universities and colleges is growing. Of the 158 thousand students in the 2015/16 academic year, 20 percent followed English courses, 64 percent Dutch and 16 percent a mixture of the two. The number of English courses available differs widely per university. For example, 60 percent of the University of Twente's courses are in English, while Radboud University still has 94 percent Dutch courses. 

At masters level, 70 percent of the 96 thousand students followed English language education. Only 18 percent followed full Dutch courses. TU Delft and Wageningen University offer no courses in Dutch at masters level. 

Minister Jet Bussemaker of Education asked KNAW to do this study due to a lot of controversy on the matter in recent years. Critics claim that students don't even have a good enough handle on Dutch, let alone a second language. Earlier this year education organization BON t the Dutch universities and colleges if the new government does not implement stricter rules for tertiary institutions who want to switch to English.