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Union anger at Dutch inspection of Swedish schools

Published: 08 Nov 2009 10:06 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Nov 2009 10:06 GMT+01:00

Dutch school inspectors have been hired to review English language teaching in 30 Swedish schools. The decision has been met with irritation by teacher unions, according to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

The team of inspectors from the Dutch firm Cito will be deployed to look at English language teaching at schools across the country.

Swedish inspectors will also accompany the Dutch team and interviews will be conducted in English.

"In the Netherlands there is a long tradition of inspecting schools and a reason to commission Cito for this work is that they work differently. We naturally hope to learn from the cooperation with them," said Sven-Olof Lundin at The Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) in a press release.

The review will look at the teaching of pupils between the ages of 11-16 and is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2010. The total cost has been projected at around 5 million kronor ($714,000).

The Swedish teacher unions have expressed surprise at the inspectorate's decision.

"I am irritated that we have not been informed about this project. I question how a Dutch firm can study a Swedish school. What requirements do they have to judge Swedish schools and what will the results be used for?" said Metta Fjelkner, chair of the National Union of Teachers (Lärarnas Riksförbund, LR) to DN.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:20 November 8, 2009 by Beynch
I must be missing something here. Dutch inspectors checking out English teaching in Swedish schools???? Why aren't the inspectors from Indianapolis, or Stoke on Trent?
12:10 November 8, 2009 by Nemesis
This is a good thing.

The unions should learn to see the trees and the forest together, not look for fresh trees to cut down.

Schools systems co-operating across internal European borders inside the European Union is a very good thing and a benefit of being a member of the European Union.

I dread to think what the results will be if Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Danish or German school inspectors ever inspect schools in Ireland or the UK. Maybe the embarrassment of the results might shock them into improving the schools, but I would not bet on it.

An external inspection will spot problems and highlight sucessful areas that an internal inspection will miss.

This inspection will be reciprocated with the Netherlands. That will also be interesting and good for standards.

Dutch inspection standards are very high. English language teaching in the netherlands is of a very high standard.

What is being taught in schools in Sweden is very high standard english.

Sorry to have to say this, but in United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States of America, the english language is so inundated with colloculisms, slang and heavily accented that it is actually not very good english in a lot of areas.

In some places the english lnguage is almost like a seperate dialect, such as in Northern Ireland, where i come from. Just record your own voice and compare it with a Swede speaking english and you will see what I mean.
13:01 November 8, 2009 by Streja
I don't see a problem with it. But I don't think English lessons are a problem here, I think it's maths.
13:09 November 8, 2009 by Nemesis
@ Streja,

All across Europe the mathmatics standards appear to be dropping.

Children in Sweden should be starting mathmatics at age 4\5.

Teaching standards for mathmatics teachers does need to be tightened up. Not just in Sweden but in every country in the European Union.
14:38 November 8, 2009 by skatty
I suggest the union to take a trip to some of Amsterdam's coffeeshops to cool down!
15:44 November 8, 2009 by Rick Methven
The Netherlands has always had an excellent reputation in teaching foreign languages. Dutch, like Swedish is a language spoken by relatively few people (+/-25 million). So the requirement to speak the languages of the surrounding countries has always been important. They also have a good record in teaching foreigners Dutch.

I went on an immersion course, locked in for 10 days and came out speaking Dutch after only being in the country for six months.

It makes more sense to have a Dutch organisation evaluating Swedish teaching of English as they are looking at the teaching of English as a second language. An English inspection team would not be able to do that.
16:28 November 8, 2009 by Michael84
I don't question Dutch inspectors skill but what i'm sure is that a native English speaker could do the job better.
16:57 November 8, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
The Dutch I have met speak better English than most English and Americans and tend to have a relatively neutral accent.

But at the end of the day, there are probably a large difference in the teaching methods between English as a first or second language, so using the Dutch makes sense.
17:31 November 8, 2009 by Rick Methven
The Dutch have a much longer experience in teaching English as a second language than most other European countries. When I lived in Holland in the 70's just about everybody spoke English even the Bus drivers.

Nowadays the percentage of Swedes speaking English is increasing, but it is only the younger ones.

In my wifes Swedish relatives, those under 40 speak English to an acceptable level but most over 40's do not speak English or speak a bit of "TV English"

Getting advice from the Dutch is the best thing they can do
20:46 November 8, 2009 by PrinceKnight
Now if Nemesis (this nickname is her dream) could only learn to spell "colloquialisms"!
23:40 November 8, 2009 by uunbeliever
There are only two things I hate in this world, intolerance of other cultures. . .and the Dutch.
00:19 November 9, 2009 by jag2009
@ Nemesis My opinion: I agree maths is a real issue in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northen Island, but english language?

That is not correct. If our language is going down hill how can, we have the best university in europe (Oxford), Stephen Hawkings the smartest man in the world, Timothy Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web, not to mention a language which is spoken world-wide.

Slang is in every country for example : 1) I are not going to - I ain't gonna 2) je ne suis pas americain - je suis americain - j'suis americain

The inspector should be english! same as if I was taught swedish I would not want to be taught by a Russian. Its stupid. You can't beat the mother tongue.
01:31 November 9, 2009 by Greg in Canada
"Slang is in every country for example "

Including the UK. There are some very wide ranging dialects, accents and slang expressions throughout the UK, not to mention the entire English speaking world. It's a very tiny % of the UK population that actually speaks "proper" Oxford English. I've actually noted that both the Dutch and Swedes tend to find the North American slang to be hip, particularly younger people.

Not such a bad thing to invite the Dutch inspectors. All they are asking for is an outside opinion and an exchange of information. I'm sure English language teaching is very good in both Holland and Sweden. The teacher's union needn't be so uptight about it.
10:05 November 9, 2009 by Swedecakes
Having lived in both the Netherlands and Sweden, I can say that the Dutch have greater experience teaching English as a second language and are very qualified to be third-party inspectors of the English-as-a-second language program in Swedish schools.

Many UK and USA teachers are not trained to teach English as a second language and do not understand the discipline.
10:13 November 9, 2009 by Caracalla
In Holland Cito has a monopoly on quite some parts of the educational system, which is partly a good thing because they are experts in their field. However, they are a company, so their interests are very different than those of the people that invited them. Their first aim is not improving the (or helping the Swedes to improve their) schoolsystem, but making profit.

No matter what the results are or will be used for, Cito will use the results to promote itself abroad.
13:25 November 9, 2009 by Beynch
After reading swedecakes' comment above I withdraw my first comment, above.
14:13 November 9, 2009 by Ian11
uunbeliever did you ever consider that the Dutch has the most tolerant culture in the world? Where else is Sex and Drugs are s legal as buying groceries?

Michael84 how can you teach English as a second language when it is your first language?

Beynch what advantage does it present for inspectors from Indianapolis or Stoke on Trent to inspect English teaching in Sweden?
14:40 November 9, 2009 by Beynch
@Ian11: Please refer to my last comment. I withdrew my first. Thank you for allowing me to do so.
17:30 November 9, 2009 by Nemesis
Let me make a few things clear.

There is no problem with inspectors of english language teaching to non english speakers being from a non english speaking country.

Standard Queens English is not taught anymore in the USA, UK or Ireland, regardless of what anyone thinks.

I will give some examples of how bad it has got.

I was in a SFI class last year with a Chinese women who trained in the English language in China. She paid a lot of her own money for the course. I could not understand one single word she said. It was incoherent nonsense.

It was not her fault. As some of you know I am was raised in Ulster in the North of Ireland. It is english speaking.

It turned out her english teacher was from Strabane in Northern Ireland and had trained to teach english as a second language in Derry in Northern Ireland. (or Londonderry (Please no northern ireland politics. I don't want to know)). Strabane combined with Derry is not english, it like a mixture of klingon, text speak, pigeon english and slang invented by a demented magpie.

I asked her to write what she was saying. It was a mixture of sms speak, Derry slang, computer terminology and general gibberish.

I bought her a CD for her walkman to listen to and learn english. That helped her a bit. I also took her to Konvux, where she enrolled in an English language course. Her English is now coming along very well. Her speech is quite clear.

Another example was a Russian student who had been taught by an American. He knew every single piece of hip hop slang, computer terms and no idea how what it really mean't.

Americans appear to spell with a Z instead of a S. They should all go to english class's and learn english.

The other example was a Korean student taught by a moron from Neasden in London. She had learned pigeon english crossed with text speak.

If they are not going to teach traditional queens english, they should not teach english to non english speakers.

To be blunt about it, Swedish and Dutch people speak better english than english, irish, or american people. The entire eductional standard in the UK and Ireland has been dropping like a brick for 25 years now. The americans are even worse, than the british and irish.

There entire education systems do not need reformed. They need to be dismantled and rebuilt form the ground up.

Personally I find the Swedish and Dutch speaking better English than I do to be embarrassing. It has given me the boot in the ass to improve my language skills.
18:16 November 9, 2009 by Rick Methven
Often the problem with native English speakers, when speaking to foreigners, is that the speak fast and use colloquial terms. without even realising it. My wife, even after 20 years living in England still has a problem understanding the English of some regions, Belfast and Newcastle are 2 that come to mind.

I have spent many years travelling to and living in countries where English is not the native language. To be able to be understood, I have learnt to speak slower than I would to a native English speaker. I have also developed a more neutral accent sort of mid-Atlantic that also helps you to be understood. Having said that, I am often ashamed that my Dutch and Swedish friends often speak better English that I do.

Nemesis, I think that demented magpie must be the one who keeps shi**ting on my car
19:13 November 9, 2009 by jack sprat
On the one hand it benefits everyone to be able to speak what is generally termed as neutral English,however on the other it will be a sad day when regional dialects,accents and local slang all disappear.
22:44 November 9, 2009 by Nemesis
@ Rick Methcan,

Agreed.

What happened to those students, made me stop and think.

I am now with limited sucess trying to moderate my thick Ulster accent. It definately is a serious disadvantage for me.

I have to learn to speak a lot slower.

Learning not to use insults in everyday lnguage has been hard for me, but a necessary first step.

Slowing down I have had a lot of sucess, but still not enough to have a proper english conversation with an english speaker from Sweden. However I am getting there.

Moving to Sweden has improved my english substantially. That I am grateful to the Swedish for.

People on this forum who know me, will know how thick my Ulster accent was when I first moved to Sweden.

In a way, I am giving up part of my culture, but I think it is appropiate I do so.
23:23 November 9, 2009 by Luke35711
Swedes speak great English: fluent and idiomatic! And the inspections are a good thing.

Math on the other hand is a big problem. Teaching of math was actually quite good in the former Eastern block... although some of the textbooks were translations from Russian. My advise: consider hiring some good math teachers from the new EU countries, and limit the amount of dumb TV children are allowed to watch.
23:26 November 9, 2009 by Nemesis
@ Luke35711

Thank you, for that bit of good sensible advice.
03:28 November 10, 2009 by Davey-jo
"Americans appear to spell with a Z instead of a S. They should all go to english class's and learn english."

This is the fault of Webster and his damned dictionary. Americans wishing to be independent castrated their language and speak with a squeak ever since!
01:57 November 26, 2009 by electriclott
Why should Americans learn "proper" English? They understand each other just fine.Every country varies from the so called "proper" way to speak their language. Its what makes us all unique.
04:24 December 12, 2009 by SteveFtW
Both the Swedish and Dutch have an excellent command of English, probably among the best in the non-English speaking world. I went to school in The Netherlands as a kid(I am native English speaker) and learned that language, and then studied Swedish later on at the university level. Strangely enough I found Swedish much easier, outside of the pronounciation. Seems like a more similar syntax, grammar, and overall flow whereas Dutch flows much more like German.

Some comments on several of the posts here - first of all, ALL people tend to speak colloquially among their own, and tend to swallow their language and slur their words - that is not phenomenon one sees just in English. Listen to everyday people speaking Dutch or Swedish, or any language for that matter, in their own environments and you'll see what I mean. Anyone learning a foreign language in any country is likely to learn a standardized, more sterilized, formal version of that language - but that doesn't necessarily prepare them for heavy interaction among locals in any country - that only comes with experience and exposure. The international English taught probably comes in more handy for business or generic international communication, which is its real intent anyway. Continental Europeans or others who attempt to use so-called "trendy" American slang sound ridiculous to native speakers, anyway.

By the way, all of the "experts" on English, and on who speaks it well and who doesn't should perhaps check their own usage before commenting on others' - and who defines what "proper" English is, anyway? And, by the way - English is always capitalized - in English:-)

I do commend the Swedes and Dutch however for their outstanding English. One could easily audit ESL teaching for the other, in either direction. The Dutch however seem to have been doing the English "thing" much longer.
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