Sint Janschool: Using Home Languages To Counter Inequality

The Sint Janschool in Amsterdam, one of the first Language Friendly Schools, uses the home languages of the children to counter inequality, to instill confidence in the students, and to enrich education by sharing information about different cultures and traditions of the students.

In February 2020, Dieneke Blikslager, the vice principal of the Sint Janschool was invited to the National Conference on Education Inequality to share her insights with teachers and researchers.

Blikslager explained that at the Sint Janschool, teachers, researchers, students and sometimes even parents are included in practical research: “Action oriented research is completely embedded in the school system. The beauty of it is that everyone is happier and that even children sometimes come up with topics.”

Parents and teachers working together

The Sint Janschool was one of the participating schools of the AVIOR project, funded by the EU and initiated by the Rutu Foundation. Teachers were invited to collaborate with parents with a migrant background using bilingual math and literacy materials in Dutch/Arabic or Dutch/Turkish. Games, posters and math exercises were used at home and in the classroom.

Afterwards, all teachers at the Sint Janschool reported a better relationship with parents some of whom were previously considered ‘hard to reach’. Parents on the other hand said that they felt more welcome at school and enjoyed working together with their children.

As Blikslager remarked: “Parents need to have a reason to work together, to come out of their comfort zone. This project offers that reason, it makes the connection so that the triangle between parents, teachers and child can work smoothly.” (Synthesis Report AVIOR, pg. 21).