Behoeften Aan Vreemde Talen en Vreemde-Talenonderwijsbeleid
Before 1968 foreign language teaching in non-vocational schools in the Netherlands presented a relatively simple and stable picture: French, German and English were compulsory subjects for all pupils and all pupils were examined in these subjects. Since then the situation has changed drastically. In 1968 a new law came into effect which made it possible for pupils to drop either one or two foreign languages - depending on the type of school they attend - well before their final exams. One of the most dramatic results was that more than half of the pupils decided not to take an exam in French. Also, the share of foreign languages in the curriculum dropped from ± 28% to 24.5%. Teachers and their associa-tions voiced their worries about the effects of the new law in their journals and in consultative committees. In response to this, the Ministry of Education requested the I.T.S (Instituut voor Toegepaste Sociologie = Institute of Applied Sociology) at Nijmegen to start a large-scale research project into foreign langufige needs in the Nether-lands .
In this paper arguments for the teaching of modern foreign languages and the needs they are based on are examined. Three categories of needs are distinguished and it is argued that, in the Dutch situation, the cate-gory of needs for communicative foreign language skills carries most weight. Next it is argued that, although a foreign language teaching policy cannot be successful unless it is based on a consideration of foreign language needs, they are several other factors - language political, learning psychological, linguistic, educational - which should also be taken into account. Finally, some results of the I.T.S.-research project into foreign language needs are discussed in detail and it is concluded that these re-sults can be profitably used as a starting point for a fundamental discus-sion with regards to a well-balanced foreign language teaching policy for the future.
Article language: Dutch