Flemish government clashes with education sector over language test for newcomers

Academics and education providers are questioning the language test that newcomers to Flanders will have to take as part of their integration programme from September. Based on an initial pilot study, experts from the Centre for Language and Education (CTO) conclude that the test is not yet up to standard.

The standardised language test must be scientifically validated by the CTO, which is affiliated with KU Leuven. CTO says this would not be possible in September, and a valid and reliable test could not be produced before March or April next year.

"From a scientific point of view, we do not and will not support the current scenario"

According to a recently published analysis, "the test does not reliably measure the learner's language level. From a scientific point of view, we do not and will not support the current scenario. It is clear that we do not yet have a valid, reliable and fair test".

Nevertheless, Flemish Education minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) is determined to persevere. "We have to give non-native speakers the guarantee that they can reach the same language level wherever they are. This test is a much-needed lever for everyone who wants to integrate in Flanders," he told De Standaard.

He stressed that, in addition to the standardised test, the evaluation of the education centre would continue to play a role in the assessment.

'Problematic and unrealistic'

In a letter sent to Weyts last week, the education umbrella organisations and primary education centres described the situation as "problematic" and the implementation as "totally unrealistic". For example, none of the promised training has yet taken place, and the test appears to take six hours instead of the stipulated two.

In addition to more resources, the education partners demand that the test should not have any legal consequences. Negotiations between the cabinet and the partners concerned took place on Monday and will continue on Tuesday.

Freedom of education

The new integration policy has attracted criticism, with adult education centres having gone to the Constitutional Court to challenge it. The fact that newcomers who learn Dutch as a second language have to take a compulsory test violates the freedom of education.

"Students can only get their diploma by passing this exam. In this way, the government is depriving us of the right and the decretal mission to determine the level of the course participants," said Veerle Adams, director of adult education centre CVO Lethas in Brussels. As evaluation is essential to education, this would be a disproportionate interference with the freedom of education.


#FlandersNewsService | © BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS

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