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It’s a shame

April 11, 2010

In the aftermath of the Economic Crises and with the National Elections coming up in June, the Dutch political parties are outlining their cutbacks. Education is naturally on the tip of every party leader’s tongue where positive investments are concerned. Of course…

Right up to the moment when they negotiate the coalition program. Then the educational system and the teachers turn out to be the changeling: the election promise no one keeps.

Educational cutbacks

Most of us tried to laugh away the educational cutback proposals the civil workgroups presented nearly two weeks ago on April 01. They’re preposterous: pleading for larger classes, fewer hours, a choice-restriction on learning paths and shorter course programs.

But laughing at proposals and name-calling the civil servants won’t ease the general felt anxieties. The uncomfortable uncertainty remains what the coming administration will make of it.

Teachers’ vision

Where are the teachers in all this? The video insert below shows that they’ve got their own take on the future of education. Eighteen American classroom teachers ‘speak out’ on technological integration and 21st Century skills for students.

Seeing that this video’s popping up on European educational websites and Twitter streams, proves that they’re not alone in this. Other educators recognise and underline this vision. I certainly do.

Ignoring signals

What stuns me is that for two weeks now in a row, Buitenhof reports the government administration not picking up on signals in the field. Last week episode concentrated in a one-issue special on the neurological differences between boys and girls and the impact it has on their learning abilities. The interviewees, all renowned educators and researchers, propagated adapting various learning styles corresponding with the presented findings.

Today Buitenhof featured an interview with Feike Sijbema (CEO DSM), among others a member of the Innovative Platform. In the interview Sijbema explains why the platform failed to achieve its goals on innovations and the furtherance of knowledge. Guess why. This was mostly due to the Dutch administration (again) ignoring advices given.

Doing it together

The teachers in the video not only express their vision on 21st century education, but also the hope that we work on it together. This includes governmental administrations. For if we want to empower students, be it youth or adult learners, we need to invest in their and our (read educators) digital skills. Now.

This means money-wise and time-wise. No cutting back in resources for learning materials; in teachers’ pay; in lifelong learning programs for teachers and in study programmes for students.

Free market thinking

Unfortunately politicians are already aligning free market thinking to the distribution of education. Being leftish, I’m not a fervent supporter.

I’m all for having audits and inspections seeing to the quality of educational execution. But I’m e.g. strongly against hiring high priced ad interims with an economic background and little to no affiliations with the educational process.

You know beforehand what they’ll do: cut back on teachers, teachers’ pay, staff meetings and study programmes. And somehow they always seem to propagate larger classes.

Don’t make promises…

So, to the Dutch politicians out there I say, don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
Not where the knowledge acquisition of our youths is concerned. Not where the stimulation of lifelong learning programs for adults is concerned.

The educators are the foot soldiers in all this. And they have a vision. It would be a doggone shame, should you ignore this.

Other referrals teachers video:

e-Learning Blog
Wilfred Rubens: technology enhanced learning (Dutch)
LinkedIn Group ELAN (Dutch)
Twitter Streams: teachers vision

Related (Dutch) articles: – Onderwijs niet voor wie niks wil of kan
nrc handelsblad – Veerman: sluit hoger onderwijs uit van bezuinigingen
zibb – Platform: meer geld voor onderwijs

Related LinkedIn Discussions:

Top 5 van de wereld? Dat betekent werk maken van Hoger Onderwijs

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2010 18:45

    I believe the article you cite serves as premise that the right centric wing of the Dutch government is proclaiming their support for education and not perpetrating an injustice as I interpret you as indicating. Sadly, politics are intertwined with this topic, but I want to focus on the potential benefits of the Dutch leadership rather than on the politics of it.

    Adjusting budgets are necessary evils of global economies across the globe as a whole. So although this cited article references Dutch government, leadership across global academia are considering the same dilemias of cutbacks in education as well.

    The article points out interesting characteristics of the cutback proposal, ‘… larger classes, fewer hours, a choice-restriction on learning paths and shorter course programs.’ With the exception of restricting learner choices, these are mainly benefits of a well orchestrated eLearning/social learning initiative. The proposal for increased class size (think corporate enterprise), fewer instructor led training (ILT) hours (think more time on the job), and shorter course programs (think nimble workforce) are all benefits of a well designed and ‘blended’ learning environment.

    I point out those characteristics as benefits to my corporate clients when I propose solutions. They share my position.

    The Youtube video link was definitely enjoyable. Well done orchestration of the valuable benefits of social learning environments and an ingenious articulation of the need for us to get off our duffs and make dramatic strides towards integrating social learning strategies into both corporate learning and greater academia alike.

    I believe the Dutch government has sounded the alarm that changes need to happen to maintain economic solvency. Those changes I see as being detailed within their proposals to increase class size, limit hours and shorten classes lengths. The ‘experts’ within Dutch academia need to find a possible compromise to that proposal.

    I believe those in my industry (semiconductor equipment simulation) are embracing a strategy that yields benefits not unlike those sought by the Dutch government. Possibly the two could connect on Linkedin?!
    I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss your article and look forward to the insight of others. I will be following closely.

    Peter Albert


    • April 12, 2010 19:28

      Dear Peter,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I recognise what you’re saying about a blended learning environment. Though this might be true for some corporate training; a lot of schools are struggling to make do in the traditional way. And I know for a fact that even today (in our digital world), there’s a high percentage of companies that don’t dare embark on E-Learning because of its costs. Bottom-line is: they can’t afford it.

      I’ve added the article on as a related piece. In it Walter Dresscher also pleads for investing more in education as a system and investing more in the digital knowledge of teachers. Not (over)spending on management, the way we’ve done up to now. I truly believe this to be very important.

      Like the teachers say in the video: let them learn, so that they can relearn (aka teach).
      Better teachers lead to better students lead to educated participants of society lead to enrichment (literally and figuratively).

      In the end the tools we use to educate are just that: tools. It’s all about empowering the trades(wo)man.

      Greetings, Evita

      I must add that in the Netherlands we’ve not picked up on E-Learning the way other countries have, e.g. the States. We tend to feel that Distance Learning is ‘not as good’ as Formal Learning.


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