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Frisian is spoken in large parts of Fryslân, one of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands.
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|KML track: frisian|
|Can speak||Can understand||Can write||Total population|
The Frisian language made its debut in the Dutch school system in 1907, when the province of Fryslân started to offer grants to support Frisian lessons after school. In 1937 the Netherlands adopted for the first time legislative measures that made it possible for Frisian to be taught in the higher grades during Dutch school lessons. In 1950 nine primary schools began an experiment with bilingual education, and in 1955 Frisian-Dutch bilingual schools got a legal basis. Frisian became an optional subject throughout primary school, and the language could be used as medium of instruction in the lower grades. Further improvement occurred with the Primary Education Act from 1974, which made Frisian a compulsory subject in primary school from 1980 onward 3). In 2007 experiments with trilingual education (Frisian, Dutch, English) began. Currently there are more than seventy trilingual primary schools and 6 trilingual secondary schools in Fryslân 4).
De Wet Gebruik Friese Taal 2014 states that:
Every four years, according to the Wet Gebruik Friese Taal, the province of Fryslân and the Dutch government draft a policy concerning the Frisian language, including education. For the latest policy, see Bestjoersôfspraak Fryske taal en kultuer 2019-2023.
The province of Fryslân states that it “stimulates the use of Frisian in young children. For instance, the provincie intends that many kindergartens and daycare centres have a bilingual Frisian-Dutch policy” 5).
The province of Fryslân has the authority to exempt schools from certain conditions of Frisian education. For this, the province has a policy, Taalplan Frysk. However, the report from the Inspectorate (2019) states that this policy reduces the ambitions of schools for Frisian education.
The Dutch law makes no mention of Frisian in preschool. The province of Fryslân however, states on its website that it encourages the use of the Frisian language in young children. “The province intends that many kindergartens and daycare centres conduct a bilingual Frisian-Dutch policy” 6).
The Dutch law on primary education (Dutch: Wet op het Primair Onderwijs) states that:
The Dutch law on secondary education (Dutch: Wet op het Voortgezet Onderwijs) states that:
The Netherlands has declared paragraph 8, 2 (ii) of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages: “to provide facilities for the study of these languages as university and higher education subjects” 7)
The SFBO organises in-service training courses with emphasis on Frisian and multilingualism. Teachers for primary and secondary education are trained at the NHL Stenden Hogeschool. A Frisian language course is part of the curriculum 8).
Frisian language teachers can get support and advise at the Frisian language teacher interest group Levende Talen.
The Dutch Government does not provide extra funding for education in Fryslân, but the province of Fryslân does provide funding in some measure (
In its last report (2016) of the Committee of Experts on the Charter on Frisian language education in the Netherlands, the committee stated that the amount of education provided in primary and secondary schools was not sufficient for the development of an adequate level of literacy 9).
In 2017, the Province of Fryslân stated that about half (200) of the total number (400) of preschool locations are bilingual (that is: Frisian is used for more than 50% of the time). These locations receive guidance from the Sintrum Frysktalige Berne Opfang (SFBO). About 30-35% of the children below 4 years old attend them. However, especially in the cities, the offer does not meet the demand 11).
In 2000, Boneschansker en Le Rutte stated that, similary to 1984, Frisian in preschool was hardly used in urban playgroups, but rural playgroups were more or less bilingual. Group activities were almost always in Dutch: Frisian was used mainly in contact with individual children and parents 12). It is unclear it this situation persists.
In 2000, about 60% of the preschool teachers had Frisian as their mother tongue 13).
In 2009 Frisian language education was inspected. The inspection found that 77% of 39 inspected schools offered sufficient Frisian to cover the set educational goals and 61% reserved sufficient time in the curriculum 14).
In 2009 primary school principles stated that Frisian was used as language of instruction mainly in the lower classes: on average about three hours a week. This time steadily decreased in higher grades down to 1 hour per week. About one quarter of the schools did not use Frisian as language of instruction 15). However, in its last report on Frisian language education in the Netherlands, the committee of experts stated that the time allotted to Frisian was only 30-40 minutes on average 16).
In 2009 Frisian as a subject was given for an hour per week in the lowest two grades, and decreased in higher grades down to 45 minutes. Compared to 2005 is the time allotted to Frisian has increased by half an hour 17).
In 2009 77% of 39 inspected schools taught sufficient Frisian to archieve the set education goals regarding Frisian language skills 18).
To improve Frisian language education in primary school, an experiment, set up by the Fryske Akademy, started in 1997 with trilingual education: seven primary schools committed themselves to use Frisian and English also as mediums of instruction.20).
In 2016 73, out of 428 primary schools, were included in the “trilingual netowrk”. However, only 30 of those were at the time officially certified. The degree to which Frisian is used as language of instruction varies among schools. Estimates vary between 1.25-3.5 hours per week and 10-25% of the time 21).
The report by the Dutch inspectorate of Education from 2009 stated that out of 17 inspected secondary schools:
In its last report on Frisian language education in the Netherlands, the committee of experts from the Council of Europe stated that most schools (73 out of 87) offer Frisian for only one hour per week and for one year only. Only 15 schools teach it after the first year. Since the 2013-2014 school year, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science provides € 65.000 annually for teaching Frisian at secondary schools. Frisian is an optional exam subject and approximately 50 pupils choose it every year 23).
In 2016, five secondary schools offered trilingual education. The authorities plan to increase their number to at least ten by 2018. The share of subjects taught in Frisian in these schools appears to be very low. The aim to use Frisian, English and Dutch according to a share of 30%-30%-40% of the time has not yet been reached. In general, Frisian is used for about 16% of the time (taught as a subject and used as a medium of instruction) 24).
The Tomke-project, set up in 1996 by several institutes, includes stories, rhymes, songs, and games for preschoolers. All concern a Frisian preschooler named Tomke. A questionnaire from November 2013 among preschool group leaders revealed that 81% used materials from the Tomke project on a daily basis 25).
Learning materials for primary and seconday education are commissioned and subsidized by the Province of Fryslân. The past few years digital materials have been developed. All materials are mainly being developed mainly by Afûk and Cedin 26).
Read more about Frisian language education in Mercator's Regional Dossier (2007).
Mercator's wiki on minority language education by Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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