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Extensive Reading: another way of preparing Dutch secondary school students for final examinations

By Nicole Sijbrandij


Reading comprehension is the most important skill a Dutch secondary school student has to acquire in order to pass final examinations for the foreign languages. However, the importance of reading comprehension is not reflected in the curriculum. Even though exam classes and also pre-exam classes practice reading comprehension so often that most students have had it with reading at the time of the exams, reading is not very important in the junior curriculum. The junior students have to learn to communicate their feelings, thoughts and values, and they have to know how to order something or how to complain. There is no doubt that being able to communicate in the foreign language is important, but fact is that students need to have a very good command of the written form of English if they want to go to tertiary education. \ud In the Netherlands, the government has tried to bridge the gap between secondary and tertiary education. In 1998, the “Tweede Fase,” an upper grade curriculum for HAVO and VWO, designed to better prepare students for tertiary education, was introduced. However, students now have to take exams in more subjects, preventing them from going deeper into the subject matter, and they are not obliged to read as many books as before the implementation of the Tweede Fase. There still seems to be a discrepancy between the curriculum, as reflected by the eindtermen of the Tweede Fase, and the final exams and thus between secondary and tertiary education. \ud Students have to learn to read, write, speak and listen, but are only tested in reading comprehension. Also, they are not prepared for the amount of reading that needs to be done in tertiary education. This discrepancy could be overcome by a slight change in, or addition to, the current curriculum. \ud Studies show that extensive reading can increase students’ motivation, because extensive reading proves to students that reading does not have to be difficult and can indeed be fun. Extensive reading provides rich input in a country where English is a foreign language and thus not used on a daily basis. Extensive reading also provides more input, because students have more contact with the foreign language than when they only listen to the teacher, if the teacher even teaches in English to begin with, use English in class during speaking exercises or watch television. That is why there should be more focus on extensive reading in secondary education, because extensive reading can prepare students for the examinations less painfully than reading comprehension tasks and students will become more proficient in the foreign language

Topics: Letteren, extensive reading
Year: 2006
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