Multilingual Assessment in the Netherlands

Some international families send their children to international schools, especially if they move frequently  this seems to be the best option as the curriculum of international schools is expected to be similar all over the world. Unfortunately this is not the case. There are sometimes major differences even within the same kind of "international" school and, to make the school choice even more complicated for parents, the term itself of "international" appears to be misused by many schools. Some schools call themselves "international" but have a very monocultural curriculum. – But this will be the topic of another post.
What international families struggle the most with when it comes to new schools, are the assessments. Will their children be assessed in the "right way"? What kind of assessments will be done and when? Will their children be assigned to the right group in literacy, maths, foreign languages etc.? And what if their children's academic skills are underestimated?

Especially multilingual children are still assessed with tests that are designed for monolinguals. This often leads to a very distorted image of the real skills of the child or teenager and can have great impact on his or her self confidence in school and academic success.
One of my services as Language Consultant is to offer the support to international families and schools during those assessments of multilingual children, in order to make sure that academic skills are assessed with using also the other languages (home languages or other languages they were schooled before). Willemijn Miedema, Master student at University Groningen in Multilingualism was so kind to write this post about the topic.


“What do I need to know about assessment for my multilingual child?” Norm, Demand & Assistance in The Netherlands and the International Community

by Willemijn Miedema


In general, assessments are tools to indicate a persons' skills and competences, however, assessments are also used to grade primary and secondary school children.

Multilingual children are in need of "multiple language" forms of assessment to monitor all their language and academic skills for both testing and securing knowledge in all their languages.

Monolingual education has been considered as a pillar of the nation states founded shortly after World War II, by governments consolidating their newly designed countries. However globalization in current times demands other approaches in education as a way to include all children with various linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

Multilingual assessment is being supported by the ECML, the European Centre for Modern Languages of the Council of Europe, providing both guidelines and developing projects for multilingual teaching.

For more information on multilingual teaching in The Netherlands, please go to:, the website of NUFFIC, the Dutch organization for internationalization in education.


In: “The Assessment of Emergent Bilinguals: Supporting English Language Learners” by Kate Mahony (published 2017) four methods of multiple language assessment are being introduced:

  • one-to-one-communication using discussion and interviews as means of assessment,
  • performance assessment which makes use of active tasks performed by the student such as a giving a presentation,
  • selected response assessment by e.g. multiple choice tests,
  • written response assessment by means of essay writing with rubrics or the writing of short responses to a question (Mahony, K., 2017: 38-42).


A method to test multilingualism itself is TBLA, translation-based-language-assessment, in which students are tested on their practical language skills, with emphasis on real life usage, rather than grammatical and vocabulary skills (Schissel et al., 2018, p.171).


Methods of assessment can differ regionally and depend on the school subject and regulations of school assessment set by the education department of the local or national authority.

Many schools have integrated parental participation in their school councils and support parental joint decision making.

Together with the school board parents can look into the possibilities for multilingual assessment and/or contact experts in the field such as linguists and language consultants to implement and develop methods in multilingual assessment.



Further readings:

Durk Gorter & Jasone Cenoz (2017) Language education policy and multilingual assessment, Language and Education, 31:3, 231-248, DOI: 10.1080/09500782.2016.1261892.

Jamie L. Schissel, Constant Leung, Mario López-Gopar & James R. Davis (2018) Multilingual learners in language assessment: assessment design for linguistically diverse communities, Language and Education, 32:2, 167-182, DOI: 10.1080/09500782.2018.1429463. 



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