Language and Education in a Multilingual Society: Text comprehension and language attitudes among Aruban high-school students
The present study compares students’ text comprehension in Dutch, Papiamento, English and Spanish. First-year high school students (N=402) read the exact same text and answered the exact same questions, each in a different language. The results show that English is the reading language in which students understand and remember most of the texts presented to them. Students also rated the texts significantly higher when they read them in English. Both literal and inferential comprehension were tested. Differences between the languages were not significant for literal comprehension (except for Spanish, in which the students did significantly worse). The differences for inferential comprehension, however, were significant. There were differences in score between MAVO and HAVO-VWO students, but these differences were only significant for the groups reading in English and Dutch – not for the groups reading in Papiamento and Spanish. Students did significantly better on the test when they were allowed to read in their best, their favorite, or their most important home language. Based on these findings and a discussion of the existing literature, some recommendations are made for educational changes and further research.