Please click here
if you would like to read all about your achievements
once you have completed our
(level A1 and A2)
© Council of Europe
Beginners Courses for Groups (evening classes,
Dutch as Second Language (NT2).
Our new Beginners Course will start on
Tuesday, 13th of August, 2019.
12 lessons will be conducted on every Tuesday evening,
from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.
Registration for this new course is now open.
Please call or SMS our
course coordinator Dais Chan
(9684 0356) for further information, or to register.
What can you expect?
You will have mastered the basics of the Dutch language within three months (= NT2 proficiency level A1).
If you are looking for another type of course (such as a Naturalisation Course, Civic Integration Course, Crash Course, private lessons etcetera).
Please click here: Course Overview.
Venue: Kingsfield Education Centre, classroom #08-07
150 Orchard Road #08-07, Orchard Plaza
(opp. Orchard Central, next to Somerset MRT)
Below please find more information about our Beginners Courses. Please contact our Language Course Coordinator Dais Chan (9684 0356) for further enquiries.
S$ 60/- per group lesson of 2 hours, plus a one-time payment of S$ 110/- for all teaching aids (textbook, unlimited online access to grammar instruction videos and online (multimedia) vocabulary training, plus hand-outs, grammar & vocabulary worksheets).
An advance payment of S$ 720/- is required only per sequence of 12 classes, You are free to stay with us for either 3 or 6 months. The choice is yours! Your one-time payment of S$ 110/- for all teaching aids will see you through both parts of our full Beginners Course (NT2 A1 + A2 course)
So, in total, there will be two sequences of 12 lessons for our Full Beginners Course, which is a total of 24 lessons (= 48 hours) for the complete Beginners Course (level A1 + A2), but you can also take the Basic Course only (12 lessons: level A1).
If you complete the full Beginners course (= 6 months), you will be able to converse in Dutch and you will have mastered a vocabulary of 2,500 most common Dutch words. You will be able to read and write Dutch emails with ease, and you will be able to read most Dutch newspaper articles.
Our basic Dutch course
(NT2* level A1 only)
takes 3 months,
Our full Dutch Beginners Course
(NT2* level A1 + A2)
takes 6 months,
* NT2 = Dutch as Second Language, consistent with the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR): a quality standard for language education, set by the Council of Europe.
You are free to select the number of sequences you would like to take: 1 x 12 classes (NT2 level A1) or 2 x 12 classes (NT2 level A2), so there are no obligations other than an advance payment for every round of 12 lessons you would like to take.
I. After the first sequence of 12 classes you will have reached NT2 proficiency level A1. This is the required level if you need to sit for your Dutch MVV exam (Basic Civic Integration Exam Abroad or Basisexamen Inburgering Buitenland).
II. After the second sequence of 12 classes, you will have reached NT2 proficiency level A2, which is the required level if you need to take the (major) Dutch Civic Integration Examination (Inburgering-examen)
For more information / registration regarding our courses, please call our Language Course Coordinator Dais Chan (9684 0356), or click here to register by email.
Important: if you register by email, please mention your hand phone number, since we will need to contact you regarding our final course planning.
All of our lessons are conducted at
Kingsfield Education Centre,
150 Orchard Road #08-07, Orchard Plaza
· Our Language Training Centre is located only 300 m from Somerset MRT station, just opposite Orchard Central & OG Shopping Centre.
· Orchard Plaza offers convenient parking facilities, using your CashCard or NETS FlashPay at S$ 3.85 after 6 pm for the first three hours, S$ 1.39 for subsequent 30 minutes. A grace period of 10 minutes is applicable.
· An elevator brings you straight from the carpark almost right in front of our doorstep on the 8th floor (turn right to reach classroom #08-07).
►►► Please note that you can also opt for our Private Dutch Crash Course in case you are in a hurry (= 12 intensive one-to-one sessions: click here for more information)
Each of our lessons (both private lessons and group lessons) takes 2 hours.
For further details regarding your expected achievements (comparison Dutch Language Proficiency Level NT2A1 and NT2A2) please click here (proficiency descriptors).
Please call our Language Course Coordinator Dais Chan (H/P 9684 0356) for registration and/or further discussion.
Thank you for your interest in our Dutch language courses!
Dr. Albert Winsemius (1910-1996), a Dutch economist, was Singapore's long-time economic advisor from 1961 to 1984. He led the United Nations Survey Mission to Singapore, and was to play a major role in the formulation of Singapore's national economic development strategy.
In 1960, Dr Winsemius led the United Nations team to examine Singapores potential in industrialization. At that time, Singapore had just attained self-government and was facing high unemployment and growing population. He presented a 10-year development plan to transform Singapore from an interport trade port into a centre of manufacturing and industrialization.
His first emphasis was on creating jobs and attracting foreign investment. Labor intensive industries, such as the production of shirts and pajamas, were expanded. He also encouraged the large-scale public housing programme, believing that it would bolster the country's image, thus attractive to investors. One of his earliest pieces of advice was not to remove the statue of Stamford Raffles as it was a symbol of public acceptance of the British heritage and could alleviate concerns that investors have toward a new socialist government. With his help, Singapore attracted big oil companies like Shell and Esso to establish refineries here.
During his term as Chief Economic Advisor from 1961 to 1984, Dr Winsemius worked closely with Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee and later with Goh Chok Tong. He visited the country 2 or 3 times a year to review economic performance indicators and to discuss macro-economic strategy with government planners. In the 1970s, Singapore was upgrading its industrial capacity to use higher technological methods, including electronics. He personally went to persuade large Dutch electronics companies like Philips to set up production plants in Singapore. He also proposed that Singapore could be developed as a financial centre, as well as an international centre for air traffic and sea transport. Over the next twenty years, these predictions proved to be accurate.
Dr Winsemius retired as Singapore's economic advisor in December 1983, at the age of 74. He was then quoted saying, "I leave with a saddened heart. It (Singapore) has become part of my life, more or less. It can do without me. It could do without me years ago. But it became part of my life. So I will shed a few tears, imaginary tears." Singapore was a country he regarded almost as home.
For his contributions to Singapore's economic development, he was conferred several honours. In 1967, President Yusof bin Ishak awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1970, he was conferred an honorary degree by the National University of Singapore. In 1976, he received the National Trades Union Congress' May Day Gold Medal of Honour.
Dr Winsemius died in the Netherlands on December 4, 1996. In a letter of condolences to his family, Lee Kuan Yew wrote: "It was Singapore's good fortune that he (Dr Albert Winsemius) took a deep and personal interest in Singapore's development. Singapore and I personally are indebted to him for the time, energy and development he gave to Singapore. I am proud to have known him and to have been his friend."
When asked about his life as an economist, Dr Winsemius once said, "There is quite a lot of satisfaction, perhaps not like that of, say, an architect who can look at something and say, 'I made it'. But there is that satisfaction in knowing that you have contributed to the well being of people you don't know..."
In 1997, Nanyang Technological University established the Albert Winsemius Professorship as a lasting tribute to Dr Albert Winsemius for his significant contributions to the economic development of Singapore. Please click here to read the interesting, comprehensive article of Straits Times Journalist Sumiko Tan regarding Dr. Albert Winsemius.
Did you know. that a Dutchman, a former cheese salesman, was
MM Lee Kuan Yews personal friend and economic advisor for many years?
This Dutchman had a strong faith in Singapores future success, at a time when not many people did believe Singapore would survive.
Please scroll down to read all about this Dutchman, who is highly praised in Singapore!
Facts & Figures:
What you always wanted to know about The Netherlands.
More than 16 million people
In 2004, the Netherlands had more than 16 million inhabitants in an area of 41,528 square kilometres, with only 33,783 square kilometres of dry land. This comes to 480 inhabitants for every square kilometre, making the Netherlands one of the world's most densely populated countries.
There can be few Dutch people without an immigrant somewhere in their family tree. Of the current population, 4% are foreign nationals. High population density is the main reason why the Netherlands pursues a restrictive immigration policy.
Around the 1950s, high population density led the government to encourage emigration. Many Dutch people left their homeland to build new lives in faraway places like Australia and Canada. But in the 1960s and 1970s, a labour shortage in the Netherlands attracted many "guest workers".
In recent years, the Netherlands has admitted immigrants on only three grounds: if their presence serves an essential Dutch interest, if they are entitled to live here under an international agreement, or if there are compelling humanitarian reasons for admitting them. The Government actively pursues policies to promote the integration of immigrants.
Since the Reformation of the 16th century, the Netherlands has been divided into predominantly Catholic and Protestant parts. The border between the two runs diagonally across the country from the southwest to the northeast. The Protestant community is further divided into the Reformed Church and many other denominations ranging from orthodox to liberal.
In the early 17th century, many Jews settled in the Netherlands, having fled bloody persecution in Spain and Portugal. Later that century, many Huguenots (French Calvinists) also found refuge here. In the 20th century, Hindus and Muslims began to arrive from the former colonies of Indonesia and Suriname. And since the 1960s, they have been joined by more Muslims from Morocco and Turkey.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the churches lost much of their influence in the Netherlands. First many Protestants, then many Catholics, abandoned formal religion. Less than half of the Dutch population now belongs to a church.
Dutch society used to be marked by verzuiling ("pillarisation"), social organisation on religious or ideological lines. Catholic, Protestant, socialist, liberal - each "pillar" had its own civic organisations along with newspapers, broadcasting associations, schools and political parties. The remnants of verzuiling are still evident in many Dutch institutions.
One benefit of verzuiling was that it helped prevent friction among different religious and ideological groups, since they lived more or less independently alongside each other. But society has changed. Secular attitudes - progressive, conservative and liberal - have replaced the old loyalties. Verzuiling is gradually fading away.
Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution says: "All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted."
"Just act normal - that's crazy enough" is a familiar Dutch expression. The Dutch are level-headed; they hate fuss and nonsense. They are self-willed, fond of their freedom, and inclined to stand up for themselves and their ideas. They prefer negotiating to fighting. For centuries, they have been consulting with each other and reaching compromise agreements. This has led to a tolerant climate for minority groups and manifests itself in liberal Dutch policies on abortion, euthanasia and drugs.
But the Dutch also know how to protest. In the 1980s, they protested en masse against a NATO attempt to place cruise missiles on Dutch soil. In NATO circles, this mood of protest was known as "Hollanditis". At international sporting events, such as the Olympic Games and football and ice-skating championships, the Dutch stand firmly behind their national heroes. Legions of supporters have bedecked many a foreign stadium in orange, the national colour.
The image of the Dutch has changed considerably in recent decades. They used to be known mainly for their thrifty Calvinistic lifestyle. But they have become more fun-loving, especially in the big cities. These days, the Dutch like to spend money on going out, taking holidays and decorating their homes.
The most common type of dwelling in the Netherlands is the terraced house: a family home, two or three storeys high, with a front and back garden, built in a row with several identical houses. In the cities, where space is at a premium, many people live in low or high-rise flats.
A peek in a Dutch home
Gezellig is a characteristic Dutch word. It suggests the pleasant atmosphere among a small, intimate group of friends and relatives.
The Dutch like things gezellig. You can see it in their homes. They spend a lot of time at home and prefer to entertain there. They also spend a lot of time and money decorating the home. Modern or antique - it doesn't matter as long as it's attractive and gezellig. Most Dutch children have their own room, which they decorate to their own taste.
Flowers and plants, often displayed on the windowsill, are an important part of the furniture in most Dutch homes. And if you neglect your garden, you can expect dirty looks from the neighbours. Many people leave their curtains open in the evenings. You can peek inside, but it's considered rude for passers-by to stand and stare.
Background to housing and spatial planning
The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. Housing and recreation, commerce and manufacturing, traffic and transport, agriculture and nature conservation - space for all these activities has to be found in a careful and coordinated manner.
The Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM) is responsible for providing this coordination. In the past, spatial planners used to draw up plans for fixed periods; now they apply more flexible guidelines, taking account of changing developments. The Spatial Planning Act provides the statutory framework for planning in the Netherlands.
The municipalities are responsible for planning at local level. Municipal councils draw up plans showing how land may be used - for industry, housing, recreation, etcetera - and what may be built on and under it.
The provincial authorities draw up regional plans and approve or overturn municipal planning decisions. Central government sets out planning guidelines based on its national spatial planning policy.
Until the 20th century, central government rarely concerned itself with housing. Local authorities alone laid down regulations on building alignment, fire safety and sanitation. All this changed radically with the 1901 Housing Act, which gave central government new powers to plan housing and urban development.
The Second World War left a huge housing shortage, whose impact lasted well into the 1980s. In the 40 years after the Second World War, 100,000 new homes were built on average every year, the vast majority with state subsidies.
This enabled rents to stay low and large-scale building programmes to continue. Rents were kept as low as possible so that wages could be kept low too. Low wages strengthened the Netherlands' ability to compete on export markets.
Quantity rather than quality was the principle underpinning housing policy in the years immediately after the Second World War. But in the 1970s, attitudes changed, and the emphasis shifted to the future value of dwellings and thus their quality. A new policy instrument was introduced: housing benefit, for tenants who would otherwise be spending too much of their income on rent.
In the late 1980s, the government had to economise drastically in most areas, including housing. By the early 1990s, spending on housing benefit had risen sharply, so the government started to target them more narrowly at people with lower incomes. The municipalities have played an important part in carrying out this policy.
2.4 million rented dwellings - around 37% of all those in the Netherlands - are administered by housing associations, non-profit organisations working to provide adequate housing. As part of the government drive towards decentralisation, the housing associations have been privatised in recent years. Central government has delegated the task of supervising housing associations to the provinces and the municipalities.
The government's core tasks
Government housing policy has changed in recent years. For a long time, its main task was simply building the many homes that were needed. Since then, priority has shifted to the home's durability, quality and surroundings. "Housing policy now takes account of individual preferences. The basic principle of Dutch housing policy is that everyone - rich and poor, young and old, tenant and owner-occupier - should be able to afford a decent place to live in reasonable surroundings.
Many people want to buy homes, and the government wants to make it easier for them to do so. Its goal is to have 65% of the housing stock owner-occupied by 2010. The current proportion is 50%.
Rent subsidies are still necessary to make housing affordable for those on low incomes.
The Netherlands has 6.5 million homes, with an average of 2.5 persons living in each one. Up to 2005, 100,000 homes are to be built every year, a quarter of them for the rental market. The government is helping develop construction sites, clean up the soil, and build infrastructure. It is also encouraging the use of eco-friendly building methods, materials, and structures for building new homes and for renovating and maintaining existing ones.
Most people are active in their leisure time. They are members of sports clubs, music groups or choirs. Many people attend lessons or courses to learn a foreign language, cooking, or computer skills.
The Dutch spend much of their leisure time doing odd jobs in and around the home. At weekends, they often visit friends or relatives. In the evening, they watch a lot of television. In most places, they can receive dozens of domestic and foreign TV channels on cable. Many people go on holiday abroad at least once a year.
On their days off, many Dutch people go to weekend cottages or caravans on a campsite. Or they take to the water in their sailboat or motor boat. Other popular destinations are zoos and amusement parks. On sunny days, hordes of people head for the beaches, go for bike rides in the country, or relax at outdoor cafés.
Thanks to the five-day working week, the Dutch have plenty of leisure time. As well as joining societies and sports clubs, they are fond of tending their gardens. City dwellers without a garden often have a plot with a shed on the outskirts of town. Many people like to do odd jobs around the home, like building, painting and gardening. Every town and city has at least one big do-it-yourself store and several large garden centres, which can count on plenty of business. Most families also have a home computer, on which they spend many hours working, playing, or surfing the Internet.
After school, many children learn to play musical instruments. A lot of them continue playing as adults. The Netherlands also has many marching bands, which perform at weekends and on public holidays. And few countries have as many choirs.
The Dutch love to cycle, for business and pleasure. Many of them cycle to and from work. The bicycle is practically the national means of transport.
When the country's lakes and ditches freeze over, thousands of people strap on their skates. The Elfstedentocht is the best known skating event in the Netherlands. But it is also a rare one. It can only take place if the ice is firm the whole length of the course - which is possible only after several days of severe frost. Some participants skate competitively; others do it just for fun. Competitors start first. Then thousands of non-competitive skaters try to complete the 220-km-long course through 11 Frisian towns within the time required.
Sport is an important part of life in the Netherlands. Of the country's 16 million people, 4.7 million are members of its 35,000 sports clubs. The state subsidises sports clubs not only to promote healthy living, but also because it recognises their social role. Most of their income comes from membership fees, admission charges, and revenue from the football pools and lotteries. Sports policy is largely in the hands of the national federation of sporting organisations, the NOC*NSF.
As well as taking part in sport, the Dutch also like to watch it. Thousands of supporters travel to stadiums with their favourite clubs or sporting heroes. Football, in particular, attracts many thousands of supporters. Unfortunately, this also causes problems. The police often have to prevent high-risk matches from ending in pitched battles between rival football hooligans. But when national teams play against other countries, supporters swathe themselves in orange and the whole country stands behind its national heroes.
The Netherlands has a tradition of excellence in many sports. At the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, Dutch competitors won 25 medals, 12 of them gold. Winners of gold medals included swimmers Inge de Bruijn and Pieter van den Hoogenband, cyclist Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel, judoka Mark Huizinga, horsewoman Anky van Grunsven, showjumper Jeroen Dubbeldam, and the men's hockey team.
The Netherlands is one of the world's leading ice-skating countries. Top skaters include Rintje Ritsma, Jan Bos, Gianni Romme and Gerben Wennemars.
Football is the national game. The one-million-strong Dutch football association (KNVB) is the country's largest sporting organisation. Teams, both professional and amateur, play at a variety of levels. Many professional teams have their own modern stadiums - with Amsterdam's ArenA and Arnhem's Gelredome among the world's finest. The national football team and the clubs Ajax, Feijenoord and PSV play with a prowess that has earned them worldwide reputations. And since 2000, when the Netherlands jointly hosted the European Football Championship (EURO 2000), its fame as a footballing country has grown further.
Almost all Dutch people go on holiday at least once a year. Foreign holidays are popular. France receives the highest number of Dutch tourists, but Spain and Greece are also favourite destinations. A growing number of Dutch people go skiing in France, Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
All the same, many Dutch people spend their holidays in the Netherlands. In summer, the coast is the most popular destination. As well as the Dutch, around 10 million foreigners spend their holidays in the Netherlands. Most of them come from neighbouring Germany, but many also come from the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Canada and the United States. In the 1990s, the number of tourists from Spain, Italy and Japan grew.
The Netherlands has many amusement and theme parks, offering a variety of attractions: from dolphin shows and breathtaking roller coasters to fairy-tale forests and the country in miniature.
The Efteling is a large amusement park with a fairy tale theme.
Zoos have undergone major changes in recent years. Most of them now keep the animals in their natural habitat as much as possible. In 2001, Blijdorp Zoo (Rotterdam) opened its Oceanium, a journey around the world's seas including a 26-meter-long shark tunnel.
The Dutch language
Dutch is the mother tongue of more than 21 million people in the Netherlands and Belgium. In northwestern France, around 60,000 people speak a dialect of Dutch.
Dutch is used widely in government and education in the former colony of Suriname and in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba (which are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands). In Indonesia, many lawyers and historians speak Dutch owing to historical ties. Afrikaans, which is spoken in South Africa, evolved from 17th-century Dutch. Dutch has also influenced other languages, especially in shipping, waterworks and agriculture.
Dutch is taught at around 250 universities around the world. In French-speaking Belgium, northern France and Germany, many pupils choose Dutch as their second language. In 1980, the Netherlands and Flanders founded the Nederlandse Taalunie (Dutch Language Union), which promotes Dutch worldwide and draws up rules for spelling and grammar.
The Netherlands has various dialects, but they are slowly disappearing under the influence of radio and television. In the province of Friesland, a separate language is spoken: Frisian. This officially recognised lesser-used language is the mother tongue of around 400,000 Frisians. It is similar in some ways to English and the Scandinavian languages. Dutch is the basic language of education throughout the country, including Friesland.
Dutch eating habits
In recent years, eating habits have changed considerably. The Dutch diet normally consists of two cold meals (breakfast and lunch) and a hot meal (dinner) consisting of meat or fish, potatoes and a large portion of vegetables.
As the Dutch have travelled more widely and learned about the different eating habits of immigrants, their culinary tastes have widened. This is evidenced by the many cookery programmes on television and food columns in newspapers and magazines. These days, many people prepare foreign dishes at home or eat them in ethnic restaurants.
Dutch drinking habits have also changed. As people have become more prosperous, they have come to spend more time at pavement cafés, where they usually drink beer or wine. They are also drinking more beer and wine at dinner in the evening. At lunch, however, the Dutch still stick to a glass of milk or a cup of coffee or tea. Total per capita alcohol consumption in the Netherlands is lower than in France, Spain, Germany and Italy.
For the rest, the Dutch are real coffee drinkers. At home or at work, they drink coffee all day. Tea (without milk) is also popular. It is considered polite for hosts to offer visitors tea or coffee on arrival.
The sea is the source of many Dutch specialities, such as fresh fish, mussels and oysters. Dutch cheeses, such as Gouda and Edam, are world famous. A wide variety of vegetables are available. In spring, white asparagus is on many a restaurant menu.
Traditional Dutch cuisine is very simple. Breakfast and lunch consist of sandwiches: cheese, sausage, peanut butter or jam. Popular hot meals in winter are stamppot (mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage) and pea soup (made with split peas, onion, leek, smoked sausage and bacon).
The Dutch love french fries with mayonnaise or spicy peanut sauce. Or a kroket, a deep-fried portion of meat ragout encased in batter. A fish-stall favourite is salted raw herring, downed with chopped raw onion. And children like pancakes and poffertjes (miniature pancakes, served with castor sugar and butter). Nowadays, you can also get many foreign snacks, such as hamburgers, shoarma rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls, and Japanese sushi.`
With coffee, people often eat apple pie or treacle waffles. In Friesland, they eat cinnamon bread, and in Limburg fruit vlaai (flan). Two favourite confectioneries are dropjes (salty liquorice) and Haagse Hopjes (caramel-flavoured boiled sweets). Popular strong liquors are jenever (Dutch gin) and advocaat (made with eggs and brandy). Dutch beer is well known throughout the world thanks to the huge Heineken brewing concern.
The Netherlands has a rich variety of foreign restaurants, especially in the big cities. Chinese and Indonesian cuisine, part of our colonial heritage, are especially well represented. Many of the Dutch who returned from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) brought recipes back with them. Almost every town and village has a Chinese-Indonesian restaurant. Other popular foreign cuisines are Spanish, Italian, Greek and Turkish.
Traditional local dress is no longer often worn in the Netherlands, except perhaps in tourist towns like Marken and Volendam and in strongly conservative communities like Staphorst. And even there, it is mainly the older people who wear it. Younger generations prefer modern clothing. Dutch girls wearing traditional dress in cheese advertisements do not reflect everyday reality.
The Dutch have their own way of celebrating birthdays. Friends and relatives congregate at the birthday boy or girl's home and sit together in a large circle.
Other Dutch traditions include the Sinterklaasfeest (the Feast of St Nicholas), Koninginnedag (the Queen's Birthday), the May commemorations and Carnival.
For Dutch children, 5 December is the special day on which they celebrate the Sinterklaasfeest, or Feast of St Nicholas. In the evening, people give each other presents, usually accompanied with a poem or hidden in a surprise package.
Around the time of the Sinterklaasfeest, people eat a lot of sweet things, like speculaas (spiced biscuits), pepernoten (gingernuts) and taaitaai (gingerbread). The shops sell all the letters of the alphabet in chocolate. People often get the first letter of their first name as a present.
The Sinterklaasfeest is named after St Nicholas, a 4th-century Byzantine bishop about whom little is known. According to legend, the popular saint saved children from death and provided brides with dowries. Small children in the Netherlands believe that Sinterklaas really exists. According to the story, he lives in Spain and has a big book saying which children have been good and which have been naughty. Sinterklaas' annual arrival in Amsterdam is a big event, covered live on television." He sails into the port in an old steamer, then makes a journey through town on a white horse. He is accompanied by his helpers, the Zwarte Pieten("Black Petes"), who have blacked-up faces and brightly coloured costumes. When Sinterklaas is in the Netherlands, children put their shoes by the stove. According to the story, he rides through the night on his white horse over the roofs and throws presents and sweets down the chimneys. To tempt his horse, children put carrots and hay in their shoes. Sinterklaas is a similar figure to Santa Claus or Father Christmas in many other countries.
The Queen's Birthday
The 30th of April is an official public holiday: Koninginnedag, the birthday of the former queen Juliana. Her daughter Beatrix has kept it as a public holiday in tribute to her mother. Members of the Royal Family visit two Dutch towns on Koninginnedag. All over the country, people dress in orange. The flags fly with an orange pennant, the symbol of the Royal House of Orange-Nassau. The party lasts the entire day. Separate parties are often organised for children. Most big cities allow unregulated street markets, where anyone may sell anything on the street. And there is music everywhere.
Commemorations in May
On 4 May, at war memorials around the country, the Dutch commemorate those who fell in the Second World War. The flags hang at half mast, and at 8pm, two minutes of silence is observed. Every year, the Queen lays a wreath at the National Monument in Amsterdam. The following day, 5 May, is called Bevrijdingsdag, Liberation Day. Special events and parties are organised to celebrate the freedom that we now hold dear.
In the mainly Catholic south and east of the Netherlands, Carnival is celebrated lavishly in the early spring. Brightly coloured Carnival processions make their way through the city centres. In July, Rotterdam organises a major Caribbean summer carnival, a celebration with its origins in the Netherlands Antilles.
The Netherlands has an extensive social security system, which is seen as one of the proudest achievements of Dutch society. In recent years, major reforms of this system have placed tighter controls on the way its laws and programmes work in practice. Other recent measures have been designed to tackle long-term sickness and create employment.
Each citizen of the Netherlands should be able to play an equal part in society. Some people need help in doing so: the elderly, young people, ethnic minorities and addicts, for example. Welfare policy is designed to give them that help. This is mainly the responsibility of local authorities, who have begun to focus on neighbourhood problems. They try to help neighbourhoods become vibrant communities where everybody feels at home.
A changing society
Society is changing - which in turn requires changes to welfare policy. For instance, the Netherlands has an ageing population, 28% of whom will be 55 or older less than ten years from now. Almost half of those now aged 55 to 65 have already stopped working. So for social and economic reasons, the government is trying to reduce this figure and give older people more opportunities to work. The government is also tackling youth unemployment by funding job creation and on-the-job training. And there are many other examples of current welfare policy. By encouraging municipalities to provide more childcare, the Netherlands has moved closer to the standard of other West European countries. The government gives support to parents if they have problems raising their children or if their children risk falling behind in their development. It helps the long-term unemployed tackle problems ranging from debt to psychological problems. And under the new Equal Treatment Act, it will soon be doing even more to help the disabled overcome discrimination and integrate into mainstream society.
Ethnic minorities account for 9.4% of the population. This group includes people from the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba (both parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands), Suriname, Turkey and Morocco, and many others who have come to the Netherlands as either migrant workers or asylum seekers. Between 1971 and 1997, the number of people belonging to ethnic minorities grew from 200,000 to 1.5 million. Integration does not come easy. Turks and Moroccans, for instance, are five times more likely to be unemployed than ethnic Dutch people. The government is trying to improve their position with extra training and extra incentives for companies to employ them. In 1998, it set up the Taskforce on Minorities and the Labour Market for senior businesspeople, trade unionists and policymakers. New immigrants now have to attend courses in Dutch language and society. They can also receive help finding jobs.
There are two types of social insurance: national insurance and employee insurance. The first are social insurance schemes which cover all residents of the Netherlands, as well as foreign residents who work and pay taxes in the Netherlands, who - if they wish - may continue with voluntary cover after they leave the country. Dutch national insurance legislation is implemented by the Social Insurance Bank, which manages the insurance funds and is regulated by the Ministry of Social Affairs. The General Old Age Pension Act (AOW) entitles Dutch residents to an old-age pension from the age of 65. A full old-age pension is built up over 50 years, from the age of 15 to 65. For each uninsured year, it is reduced by 2%. Four-fifths of those entitled to an old-age pension also have some other form of pension. The Surviving Dependants Act (ANW) provides benefit for those who have lost a partner, partner, or one or both parents. The surviving dependant must have been born before 1 January 1950, be classified as at least 45% unfit for work, or have at least one unmarried child younger than 18. The amount of benefit depends on income. The General Child Benefit Act (AKW) helps parents or guardians pay the costs of raising children up to the age of 18 and the Exceptional Medical Expenses Act (AWBZ) provides cover against serious medical risks not covered by public or private health insurance funds.
All employees must be insured under the Sickness Benefit Act (ZW), the Unemployment Insurance Act (WW), the Health Insurance Act (ZFW) and the Invalidity Insurance Act (WAO).
Sickness Benefit Act
This scheme insures employees who are partly or entirely unable to work for medical reasons. Since 1 March 1996, employers have had to pay their employees sick pay equal to 70% of their wage in the first year of sickness, more if laid down in their collective agreement, and at least as much as the minimum wage for which the employee would normally be eligible. The employee himself may have to bear the cost of the first two days of sickness, but if so, it must be stipulated in his contract, the employer's regulations, or their collective agreement. In many cases, employees are entitled to 100% of their wage in the first year of sickness. They may also be entitled to sick pay if they donate an organ or become sick during pregnancy or childbirth. Employees on maternity leave are entitled to at least 16 weeks sick pay equal to 100% of their wage, beginning four to six weeks before the due date. Employers are only required to pay sick pay to employees with a permanent contract. Those who are not entitled to sick pay are, however, often eligible for sickness benefit. This includes temporary employees and those who lose their job during the first year of sickness. The scheme also acts as a safety net for those with work but no formal contract, such as homeworkers and trainees.
Unemployment Insurance Act
The Unemployment Insurance Act insures employees younger than 65 against the financial consequences of unemployment. A person is eligible for unemployment benefit for six months, as long as he or she has been employed for at least 26 of the 39 weeks immediately preceding the loss of his or her job. The amount of benefit is at least 70% of the minimum wage, but may depend on previous earnings. To be eligible for earnings-related unemployment benefit, a person must have been employed for at least 52 weeks in at least four of the five calendar years immediately preceding the year in which he or she loses his or her job. Those eligible receive earnings-related benefit from six months to five years, depending on how many years they worked. Those who are still unemployed once their earnings-related benefit comes to an end are eligible for unemployment benefit equal to 70% of the minimum wage for another two years. If a person aged 57 or older loses his job, he will be eligible for this benefit until his 65th birthday.
Health Insurance Act
The Health Insurance Act (ZWF) covers the costs of medical and paramedical treatment, hospitalisation and some dental treatment. The scheme is implemented by several public health insurance funds. It also covers the costs of medical appliances, medicines, dressings and rehabilitation. It offers health insurance to most welfare benefit claimants and employees whose annual wage is below a certain amount.
Invalidity Insurance Act
The Invalidity Insurance Act (WAO) aims to help sick or disabled people find work as quickly as possible and insures employees younger than 65 against loss of earnings as a result of long-term incapacity for work. The legislation was amended with effect from 1 January 1998. A person is eligible for invalidity benefit if he has been classified as at least 15% incapacitated for acceptable work after a waiting period of 52 weeks. This period is the maximum for which a person is entitled to receive sick pay from his employer. Invalidity benefit is paid for five years. If a person wishes to continue receiving it, he must re-apply at least three months before the five years are up. The amount of invalidity benefit depends on the claimant's degree of incapacity for work, age and earnings. There are seven categories of invalidity, varying from 15% to more than 80%. A benefit percentage is linked to each category, varying from 14% to 70%. Invalidity benefit also comes in two stages: loss-of-earnings benefit for a maximum of six years and afterwards follow-up benefit. Since 1 January 1998, the Invalidity Insurance Act has also applied to civil servants. In that same period, the government has introduced compulsory invalidity insurance schemes for the self-employed and young disabled people: the Invalidity Insurance (Self-employed Persons) Act (WAZ) and the Invalidity Insurance (Young Disabled Persons) Act (WAJONG). The Invalidity Insurance (Self-employed Persons) Act covers people such as freelance workers, clergy, managing directors who are also major shareholders in their companies and spouses or partners who also work in a family business. The amount of invalidity benefit depends on the claimant's degree of incapacity for work and his or her income in the previous year. But since the earnings of the self-employed often vary widely from year to year, claimants may, if they wish, claim loss of earnings equal to the average annual amount earned over five years. The self-employed are required to take out WAZ cover. The amount of benefit is equal to at most 70% of the minimum wage. Women with WAZ cover are entitled to 16 weeks of maternity benefit, up to the minimum wage level. The Invalidity Insurance (Young Disabled Persons) Act provides minimum benefit to young disabled people; that is, those who are incapacitated for work on their 17th birthday or become incapacitated after that date and studied for at least six months in the previous year.
Local authority schemes
Other legislation provides supplementary benefits to families with incomes below a certain minimum. Most of this legislation is implemented by local authorities. Its centrepiece is the Social Assistance Act (ABW). People with too little income to provide for themselves are eligible for social assistance. If they have some other income, such as a maintenance allowance from an ex-spouse, their benefit will be reduced accordingly. Under the Services for the Disabled Act (WVG) local authorities provide transport, wheelchairs and housing services (such as alterations) for the elderly and disabled. It is intended to help them stay independent as long as possible.
Recent legislation makes it easier for disabled people and the long-term unemployed to get back into work. The Disability (Reintegration) Act encourages companies to employ disabled people by covering them against the financial risks and paying the cost of adapting the workplace. It also offers additional job opportunities for the disabled. TThe Jobseekers Employment Act (WIW) helps the long-term unemployed (with or without a disability), benefit claimants and unemployed people under the age of 23 get back into work faster. The WIW also funds work placements and training to improve job opportunities for the unemployed and it provides single parents with childcare and out-of-school care for children younger than 12.
The Dutch economy is doing well and the healthcare system reflects that. The government is increasing funding for health care and everyone is covered by health insurance. Still, developments in society and medicine make it necessary to adapt. Sometimes, people have to wait too long for the care they need. Life expectancy in the Netherlands is 74.6 years (men) and 80.3 years (women) but varies with socioeconomic status. Experts and policymakers are studying ways of helping disadvantaged people.
One important government objective is to prevent health problems and disease, or detect them at an early stage. Prevention measures, like vaccination programmes for the under-4s aim to increase healthy life expectancy, prevent early death and improve the lives of the sick and disabled. General practitioners have the largest role in prevention. Fighting infectious diseases is the job of local authorities, as part of their responsibility for protecting the public and for local public health care. Measures to safeguard food and consumer products follow EU directives, and the Health Protection, Commodities and Veterinary Health Inspectorate monitors compliance with them. Screening that incurs risks for the participants may not be carried out in the Netherlands without a license. Central government conducts nationwide screening programmes for breast and cervical cancer. Prevention includes measures to combat threats to health. Lifestyle, in particular, has a major influence on health. Various public and private organisations educate the public about exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, safe sex and relaxation. Central government supports these campaigns and takes measures to discourage habits that threaten health. It also tackles health issues like pollution, road safety and working conditions.
Quality of care
Aside from preventive programmes and the promotion of good health, care is also crucial to public health. In the Netherlands care is provided by a large range of organisations and professionals who pursue their own policies within parameters established by central government. Quality and accessibility are the key concerns. Quality is regulated in several pieces of legislation governing professionals, care institutions, the relationship between care provider and patient and the forced hospitalisation of patients unable to give informed consent. Legislation giving patients and clients a say also contributes to the quality of care. Professional care providers are responsible for setting up and monitoring their own quality systems. The Health Care Inspectorate supervises this process.
Accessibility is not only about ensuring the proper geographical spread of care, but also about financial accessibility. Essential care must be affordable for everyone. Several statutory schemes exist to safeguard this. People with incomes below a certain level are compulsorily insured with public health insurance funds. Everyone else is required to take out private insurance. Some companies have collective insurance schemes with private insurers. For long-term care and nursing, the Netherlands has a compulsory insurance scheme to which everyone makes an income-linked contribution. Forty-five per cent of all expenditure on care goes to long-term care. There are various sorts of insurance covering hospital care, GP consultations and paramedical care, which together account for 52% of all expenditure on care.
The Dutch care sector spent about EUR 37.3 billion in 2000, and the budget has grown sharply in recent years. Part of this growth is necessary to finance the care needed by a growing, ageing population. And the costs of care are rising as a result of rapid advances in medical science. On top of this, patients have become wealthier and more assertive and demand higher standards of care. The government is trying to cut unnecessarily long waiting lists and to reduce the workload of care providers. In 1998, for the first time, the government and national organisations of care providers, patients and insurers got together at an early stage to make long-term agreements about how the extra money should be spent. The organisations representing care for the elderly, care for the disabled, curative somatic care and mental health care met to consider the choices that must be made, and undertook to respect the agreements. For its part, the government undertook to make an extra budget allocation for several years. This new administrative approach has the advantage of being comprehensive. Furthermore, it is based on patient demand instead of institutional supply, and provides financial security for a number of years. This frees up time and space that can be used for innovations in care provision.
In recent years the trend has been to allow people requiring long-term care to continue to live independently as long as possible, rather than placing them in institutions. Care is tailored to individual needs and often delivered in the home. Having a job or another regular activity is often essential for people to feel they are part of society. Care providers therefore try to offer this to their clients as much as possible, either using their own resources or by collaborating with the employment service, welfare agencies or industry. The government encourages this approach. For instance, all local authorities now have “indication agencies” which assess each applicants personal situation and reach an independent and objective verdict on the care that is required. This care is then supplied in kind by the insurers. People who wish to retain financial control over their own lives can apply for a personal budget, a sum of money which they are free to spend on a care provider or care institution of their choice. At present the funding for personal budgets is limited, but this innovation has led to greater flexibility and a more demand-driven approach among established institutions.
Developments in medical care
General practitioners act as “gatekeepers” to curative somatic care. People with health problems generally turn to their GP first. Only if the GP is unable to arrive at a diagnosis, or is unable or unwilling to provide the necessary treatment, will he or she refer the patient to a specialist or paramedic. Plans exist to give GPs a similar “gatekeepers” role within mental health care. But GPs have many other tasks and responsibilities: coordinating the treatment of patients who are seeing one or more specialists; delivering preventive programmes; and prescribing medicines. To achieve all this, they have to collaborate with other care providers and institutions. For GPs with solo practices - now roughly half of all practices - achieving all these aims is well-nigh impossible. The policy pursued by government and by the national organisation representing general practitioners is therefore geared towards making local and regional groups of GPs responsible for cooperation. Change is also in the air in hospitals, which vary in capacity from about 300 to more than 1,000 beds. The number of beds and the duration of the average stay have both been cut drastically, allowing an increase in one-day admissions and outpatient treatment. New medical technology, the scope afforded by computer technology and organisational change now make it possible to provide more forms of hospital care at home. Some hospitals have outpatient clinics in smaller towns, so that patients do not always have to go to the main hospital in the area. Another trend is for hospitals and specialists to cater for the needs of relatively large groups of patients, for instance in outpatient clinics where women tested for breast cancer receive the results within 24 hours.
The government is pursuing a policy of cost control in order to keep medicines affordable in the face of annual price rises of 10% or more. This rapid rise in prices is jeopardising efforts to tackle other health care problems, such as waiting lists. In principle, patients can pick up prescribed medication from the pharmacist without having to pay. But the government has set limits on the remuneration available for certain groups of medicines for which equally effective alternatives are available. If the price of a particular medicine is above the limit, patients have to pay the extra themselves. The health minister decides which new medicines are to be covered by insurance and therefore eligible for reimbursement. The Medicines Act allows the government to set maximum prices, taking prices in neighbouring countries as a guideline. The government, GPs and pharmacists are joining forces to encourage doctors to prescribe carefully and economically. Electronic prescriptions should also improve efficiency.
The main goal of drugs policy is to prevent drug use and to limit the risks associated with drug use. The health, justice and interior ministries share responsibility for this policy. Different kinds of drugs pose different health risks. Dutch law distinguishes between hard drugs (e.g., heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs) and soft drugs (hashish and marijuana). The war on international drug trafficking, through criminal investigation and prosecution, has the highest priority. Taking action against possession of small quantities of soft drugs for personal use has a lower priority. On these grounds, the “coffee shops” that sell small amounts of hashish and marijuana (up to 5 grammes per person) are “tolerated”. That is to say, persons selling soft drugs are not prosecuted under criminal law, even though it constitutes an offence. This approach has been adopted to prevent users of soft drugs coming into contact with hard drugs. Coffee shops must obey strict rules. They are strictly monitored and face closure if they violate these rules. Between 25,000 and 29,000 people are addicted to hard drugs in the Netherlands (National Drugs Monitor Annual Report 2000). That figure is lower than in most other Western countries. Methadone supply programmes help addicts kick the habit and improve their health and lifestyle. Thanks to needle exchange programmes, the percentage of HIV patients who are intravenous drug users is relatively low in the Netherlands: 10.5%. The number of drug-related deaths in the Netherlands is relatively low (76 in 2000) compared to alcohol- and smoking-related deaths (3,500 and 24,000 respectively), as emerged from the Policy Document on Alcohol and the National Drugs Monitor Annual Report 2000. Some new developments give cause for major concern, however: the rise of new synthetic drugs, for instance. Firm action is being taken under criminal law to counter the production and use of these hard drugs. At the same time, new strategies for education and prevention are being developed. The Netherlands plays a leading role in research and on the basis of the findings, it is adapting its policy to reflect new developments. The cooperation among criminal justice authorities, care agencies and international bodies is excellent. The factors that make the Netherlands such an ideal place for legal trade unfortunately also attract trade in illicit products. The Port of Rotterdam is the biggest container port in the world, and it is impossible to thoroughly check every incoming consignment. Nevertheless, more drugs are being seized than ever before.
NT2 proficiency level A1
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
© Council of Europe
NT2 proficiency level A2
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
© Council of Europe
To download a PDF file with all descriptors of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), so that you will exactly know what you can expect to achieve after you have signed up with us for any of our courses, please click here.
© Council of Europe
We are using the same Dutch teaching aids all professional NT2 language institutes in The Netherlands are using as solid basis. In Singapore, we provide additional on-line multimedia support, such as handy Dutch grammar videos, on-line vocabulary training plus intonation and pronunciation training. You can use your mobile device to learn Dutch with us, anywhere, anytime!
Please click here to read the testimony of Clarissa, a Chinese-Indonesian Singaporean, who started as our Beginners Course Student. After that, she took up a one-to-one course with us, and finally went through our Basic Civic Integration Exam Abroad Training Course. Therefore, Clarissa is able to comment on all three different course types.
Matthieu Quere (BA / CEFR-NT2)
Native Dutch Language Teacher
Only his name is French, due to his forefathers at the time of the Huguenots (17th century), but Matthieu is a true Dutchman, born & bred in The Netherlands.
In school, at the university, at the advertising agency, as member of the editorial staff of a daily Dutch newspaper. he has always been well-known for his excellent flair for the Dutch language !
Our (Malaysian Chinese) MVV student Mei, together with her Dutch boyfriend Michiel in Holland, April 2012.
This year, a surprisingly large number of students from Malaysia have signed up for our Basic Civic Integration Exam Abroad Training Course in Singapore. (The most logical reason for this, is that it is hard to find a professional Dutch MVV course in Malaysia. Therefore, Malaysians opt for taking our MVV course in Singapore: 10 lessons of 2 hours each = 20 hours)
We are truly amazed by the efforts Malaysian students are willing to make, in order to pass their Basic Civic Integration Exam Abroad in Kuala Lumpur. Some of them travel up and down from Malaysia by bus, to have their MVV lessons with us, and others take an intensive Civic Integration Training course with double lessons (4 hours) every other day, while staying with family or friends in Singapore
For those, who dont have friends or relatives here, there is another good option. Some Malaysian students (especially those from upper North or East Malaysia) have rented a room for 7 days at the nearby, affordable Hotel 88, at a walking distance of 12 minutes from our MVV Training Studio, plus a good connection by public transport.
Before and after each session of 4 hours, they study and practise in their hotel room. This is possible, because Hotel 81 offers a free, wireless Internet connection, which enables all students to intensively practise with their partner, wherever their partner is. It works out well. All of our Malaysian students have passed their exam with flying colours!
Singapores Dutch Uncle: Dr. Albert Winsemius.
Kingsfield Education Centre, 150 Orchard Road #08-07
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Contact us : Dais Chan
Mobile: 9684 0356
Impressions of the Dutch: total freedom of expression, say & do what you want, tease each other, enjoy life and have a good sense of humour all the time.