kinderenWhat is OKAN?

OKAN is Dutch terminology for the education that is organized to receive non-native children in Flemish educational institutions. This kind of education is intended for pupils who are new to the country and have a specific need being the absence of or insufficient proficiency of the Dutch (Flemish) language. In primary education, OKAN consists of 1 or 2 “reception years”, possibly with a follow-up year. In secondary school, OKAN students receive Dutch language lessons for 1 year, followed by follow-up in their further education. The schools that offer OKAN have large autonomy in the way they organize this.

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Did you know…

  • Language proficiency determines whether an “ex-OKAN-pupil” succeeds at school.
  • Textbooks in the first stage of secondary education typically contain 16,000 words. In 1 year of OKAN a student can learn a maximum of 2000 words.
  • As a non-native newcomer you can build up to 3000 words through your social contacts (eg living in a Dutch-speaking family, going to a sports club or youth movement). Good for everyday life, insufficient as a school language.
  • It takes 7 years to master a language like a native speaker.

(Source: Klasse sept 2016, Dutch article “What after OKAN”, interview with Ann Devos, pedagogical guide for foreign-language newcomers.)

Literacy software as a language aid

The use of literacy software such as Alinea or Kurzweil 3000, during but especially also in the follow-up after OKAN, can offer a solution here:

  • Students listen to texts with the correct pronunciation. The double highlighting (of both phrase and word) allows the student to “read along”. Voice and speed can be adjusted.
  • Not all words are known? No problem, the dictionaries (explanatory, pictures and translating) offer a good solution. The dictionaries can be opened according to “level“. Text understanding will improve considerably, which increases learning gainsThe translation function allows students to fall back on their mother tongue if necessary.
  • Spelling & grammar are even harder to learn than vocabulary. Thanks to Alinea or K3000, students receive writing support: word prediction and spelling correction, help with verb conjugations. The new cloud application also offers a dictation function. Increased self-employment will lead to increased self-confidence of the student and a less stressed teacher.

In addition, the general functionalities that benefit every student:

  • Highlighting and summarizing to strengthen text comprehension and retention.
  • Making audio files ensures that texts can be listened to several times, e.g. on the train on the way to school.
  • Being able to work side by side in your handbook as well as your workbook, and have simultaneous access to words explanation, pronunciation & writing support.

The Alinea scanning and reading app (for iOS and Android) will also strongly support these students in their social contacts in daily life. Any printed information you see (in the store, in the library, …) can be turned into spoken text in no time. You take a picture of the text, the app scans and reads.

Is this also free for OKAN students? Yes, thanks to the ADIBib certificate.

Thanks to the free reading software program of the Flemish government, called the “LeesVoor Vlaanderen” project, this software is free of charge for students in primary and secondary education with a certificate (dyslexia, dysorthography, …)  or motivated report of special education.  

Most OKAN students do not have a certificate or a motivated report, but they do have an explicit need for reading software (and the digital version of their textbooks so that these can be read easily). Without these tools, they might have serious problems with reading and/or writing.

All students are entitled to reasonable accommodation to suit their educational needs. The Flemish government, therefore, provided the following solution: Given that these aids fit within the care process of the school, the initiative lies within the school, which consults with both parents and CLB about the request for an ADIBib certificate. The certificate itself is issued by the CLB.  This way the software can also be offered to OKAN students free of charge. At least as long as the need for these resources is felt, which often is throughout the whole school career since it takes about 7 years to get at the language level of a native speaker.

Do you have an ADIBib certificate? Then immediately apply for Alinea or Kurzweil 3000 at: www.adibib.be/register. As a non-native parent, it is recommended to ask from the (OKAN) teacher of your son or daughter for guidance.

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“I'm 10 years old and I have dyslexia. I can read but I'm slower and I make mistakes. I'm in year five now and the texts are getting longer. That's why it's great that I can use the reading software.”
Eleana, 10 years old
"I would like to thank you for all the help and support that you have given to Mrs R. The quality of her life - although she was practically completely blind - was the best she could wish for and you certainly contributed to that! Her "big beast" - as she called her new computer with speech technology - gave her much, even in her last week of life for which she was very grateful every day! Once again, my sincere thanks for that!"
Rosa, caretaker
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Gert, visually impaired
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