Ms. Jose Jans: “Bilingual Proficiency Opens Doors for Students”
American School of the Hague is introducing the Dutch-English Dual Language Pathway in the Elementary School, a program providing a comprehensive dual language education, combining core subjects taught in Dutch with specialist subjects and social interactions conducted in English.
Elementary School Dutch teacher Jose Jans has been an important figure in the creation and development of this initiative. In this interview, she shares her insights, highlighting the pathway’s formation, structure, and the students and families who would benefit from a dual language education.
Rising Demands For Dutch Proficiency The idea for the Dual Language Pathway emerged from an increasing demand for more Dutch language instruction. Many families who enroll their children at ASH intend to make the Netherlands their home for an extended period and are looking for their children to become proficient in Dutch to better integrate into the local community and access future educational opportunities, such as Dutch universities.
In an extensive research and development process of two years, José Jans, along with her colleague Tammy Ruijgrok investigated a variety of dual language education models worldwide. Their investigation led them to visit international schools in Switzerland with dual language education programs, and to partner with Eowyn Crisfield, a consultant specializing in bilingual instruction.
Program Structure and Implementation
The Dual Language Pathway at ASH will encompass core subjects – Language, Math, Science, and Social Studies – taught in Dutch. Specialist classes, including Art, Physical Education, and Music, will be conducted in English, which is also the social language used throughout the school.
Jose emphasized the importance of starting bilingual education at a young age, and noted that this program is particularly beneficial for children who are already strong in one language – Dutch or English.
Among our youngest learners, there are vast differences as to how language is learned. But one thing that remains comprehensive is that the best way to teach a new language to learners this young is through language immersion. Jose indicated that older children, ranging from ages 7 to 10, tend to learn languages better with block systems where language learning is concentrated in specific times and routines. But younger children learn language more efficiently through being highly exposed to the new language, and it being embedded in their everyday lives.
"Students will receive Dutch instruction and be immersed in the Dutch language," Jose explained. "If English is their strongest language, teachers can always switch to English to comfort them or explain something; students will also experience their social life in English. But their main subjects and instructions being in Dutch would be a particularly effective way for our children to embark on a journey of Dutch proficiency".
Academic and Social Integration in the Netherlands
One of the primary goals of the Dual Language Pathway is to ensure students become proficient in both Dutch and English, socially and academically. Especially when considering the Netherlands as their permanent home for the foreseeable future, such proficiency opens numerous doors for students, allowing them to seamlessly integrate into Dutch society and avoid being confined to an English-speaking bubble.
Speaking Dutch would allow students to develop a larger sense of involvement and attachment to their home. Jose shared, "It's hard when you grow up in a place and you're not familiar with the language. If families plan to stay here long-term, it's essential for their children to find a place in the Dutch community, participate in social activities, and join sports clubs with local peers."
Academically, speaking Dutch would allow students to access the outstanding higher education opportunities in the Netherlands. Jose believes that the Dual Language Pathway is a significant enhancement to the school's offerings. "I think it can very be a valuable addition to the school," she said. “It's important for families to determine what their long-term plans are, or what their goals are as a family. Especially for families that are planning to stay here and are looking to immerse themselves in Dutch society, I think it’s a wonderful offer.”
The Dual Language Pathway at ASH represents a forward-thinking approach to education, addressing the needs of an international community in the Netherlands. With the goal of delivering bilingual proficiency and fostering community integration, the Dual Language Pathway prepares students for a bright future both academically and socially.