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Why swap Dutch for Gobbledygook?

An increasing number of courses at Hanze UAS are being taught in English. The English skills of some teachers seem to be insufficient. Student Party HSV investigates what needs to be done.

Teaching in Dutch only is not an option anymore for many lecturers at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Yet, not all teachers have sufficient language skills to be able to give lectures in fluent English. Students are concerned this affects the quality of education. Student Party Hanze Studentenbelangen Vereniging (Literally: Hanze Students’ Interest Union) does not have an official hotline for complaints about the insufficient English skills of teachers. Yet, HSV chair Sander Otten often hears such grievances at various schools. ‘We cannot present an official record of the number of complaints, but it is high on our agenda because it really is an issue.’

Focus on internships
The complaints HSV receives mainly come from Dutch students, but sometimes also from international students. ‘Dutch students are more widely represented in all classrooms, even in the classes which are taught in English. Thus, the issue affects Dutch students more’, Otten says. The Student Party is not sure whether it is necessarily an improvement to teach more courses in English, but HSV is convinced that it is important to find out exactly what students need when it comes to internationalization. So they planned to carry out a survey in March. ‘A couple of questions we will address are whether students actually want more courses in English and if the focus should be shifted to opportunities for internships and minors abroad. We would also like to find out if students feel that there are enough opportunities with regard to internationalisation.’ With the survey, HSV hopes to create a better view of what students actually think of internationalisation and what it should entail. ‘Now it is mainly something that is shaped by Hanze itself, not by its students.’

Varied, high quality English
One of Hanze’s internationalisation goals is to have at least one English-taught programme per school in 2020. Teachers at Hanze who are not yet up to speed with their English skills, need some extra training. Otten: ‘It is not clear to us what kind of training and English courses are offered, but we do know that this training is not always compulsory. Almost all the teachers have the basic qualification for education (in Dutch: BKO), but English skills are not a criterion for this basic qualification.’

There is no standard type of training that is offered to all teachers

Theo Miljoen, chairman of Hanze University’s participation council HMR admits that the training offered to teachers is hardly ever compulsory. But he does know the opportunities that the university offers are varied and of high quality. ‘There is no standard type of training that is offered to all teachers. There are group-wise weekly courses with a final exam, there are intensive biweekly courses and many other programs. In consultation with his or her team manager, the individual lecturer decides what suits him or her best.’
HSV hopes that a basic teaching qualification in the English language indeed will be compulsory for those who give lectures in English. ‘In a meeting at the end of last year, the executive board stated that steps towards this goal are being taken. We fully support this development’, Otten states.

No concrete commitments
Overall this development demands at lot from Hanze’s teachers. On this, both Otten and Miljoen agree. ‘The best we can do to prevent overburdening our staff is to reserve time in which they can take part in the necessary courses’, Miljoen claims. ‘There is no fixed amount of hours reserved for this type of training. The time teachers get, depends on their own needs and possibilities and should also be determined in consultation with their managers’. Miljoen thinks it is very important that the university gives its staff extra support to ensure that the switch to teaching in English is as smooth as possible. ‘Not all teachers are equally confident about their language skills. This might temper their  enthusiasm about this transition. That is why Hanze University should enable the staff in boosting their skills and confidence’, Miljoen says.

I think it’s important to carefully consider and determine where developing programmes in English is worthwhile

The roadmap to 2020, the year in which all schools must have an English-taught programme, is not specified. ‘It’s clear what we want to achieve in the end, but there are no concrete commitments as to the number of programmes per year that can switch to English.’ Miljoen says. He does not think having a study programme in English is necessarily an improvement. ‘This is not beneficial for all schools. At the School of Education for instance, this would make no sense since all the students are being trained for a future in the Dutch educational system. I think it’s important to carefully consider and determine where developing programmes in English is worthwhile.’