What are heritage language schools?
Heritage language schools are also called “mother tongue” schools. They are usually non-profit initiatives founded and operated by parents from a particular language community in order to maintain the language and culture of their (children’s) heritage. Lessons take place after school time or in the weekend throughout the school year.
Although heritage language schools are an important supplement to multilingual children’s education, they operate outside of the education system in most countries, including the Netherlands. Heritage language schools sometimes help students prepare for language tests that are used in the Dutch secondary school system or that are available from the home country.
Discover Eindhoven's heritage language schools
The first heritage language schools that we know of in Eindhoven started in the 1980s, and since 2000 there has been a growing number of schools starting up to cater to the international community. The schools have different underlying forms, for example they might be organized as a foundation (stichting), a club/association (vereniging), or classes run by volunteers or freelance teachers.
Usually between twenty and forty lessons per school year are offered, and the most popular day for the language lessons is Saturday. The average age range of students is between four and twelve (primary school age), with a few schools offering classes for very young children, for secondary school students, or for adults. There is great variation in how many hours per month the students meet, how much the lessons cost, whether or not teachers are compensated, how much support is received from the home country, and how many cultural activities are organized in addition to the language lessons. As for size, the smallest heritage language schools in Eindhoven have approximately twenty children and the largest schools have several hundred.
How HLSE got started
In 2018, the founders of the Eindhoven Italian School "La Lampadina" reached out to several heritage language schools in Eindhoven for advice about getting started. It was discovered that the heritage language schools in Eindhoven have been operating independently of each other for decades, yet they all face similar issues, namely: finding and keeping volunteers, teachers, and families; staying afloat with limited funds; finding a suitable and affordable location, creating appropriate materials, handling a special student population (with mixed levels of skills and motivation); and offering a valuable program with limited class hours and limited planning time.
This sparked the idea to create a collective platform that will allow for an inventory of the schools and other such collaboration projects. The schools are run by dedicated people who accomplish a lot in the face of these many challenges, so it is also worth coming together to recognize and celebrate these schools' achievements.
HLSE mission statement
Following lessons in the heritage language is a human right of every multilingual child, so our mission is to ensure that heritage language schools in Eindhoven succeed and that the community recognizes, values, and supports the supplementary education that heritage language programs provide. Toward this end, the HLSE Platform will focus on five areas of collaboration: visibility, quality, community-building, public outreach, and partnerships.
Goals of the HLSE Platform
The HLSE platform can promote the success of heritage language programs in Eindhoven by
ensuring that accurate information about the available programs is easy to find
creating a sense of community among the heritage language schools
organizing teacher training and other professional development events with the aim of maintaining/improving the quality of heritage language programs
informing the public about the importance of heritage language education
facilitating meaningful partnerships between the heritage schools and other organizations
The purpose of the HLSE initiative is to benefit the heritage language schools in Eindhoven, rather than to pose any undue burden on the schools.