Dutch schools should focus more on STEM education: teachers

Primary school classroom
Primary school classroom Photo: racorn/DepositPhotos

The curriculum in Dutch education must change to better prepare students for their future, according to advice from around 150 teachers and school leaders presented to Minister Arie Slob for Primary- and Secondary Education on Wednesday, NOS reports.

The advisory council, called curriculum.nu, wants to focus more on STEM education - an interdisciplinary approach to learning that combines academic concepts with real-world, practical lessons, so that students can connect school with community and work. Neelie Kroes, former European Commission Vice President and the transit minister under Ruud Lubbers, also stressed the importance of this type of education while speaking at the World Summit AI on Wednesday

The advisory council was asked to propose changes to the compulsory curriculum all Dutch school pupils follow. The current curriculum is some 13 years old and both politicians and teachers recognize that the content is outdated in a number of subjects. 

The council thinks that pupils need to be better prepared for "their personal, social and working lives". The teachers therefore came up with a long list of starting points for nine "learning areas" to focus on to achieve this. These include Dutch, English, arithmetic and mathematics, but also things like exercise and sport. The council did not come up with any specific teaching materials - the report is largely of a general nature, apart from a few points.

The proposals include teaching the basic principles of programming at primary school, and continuing this training more in-depth in secondary school. Primary school children should also receive lessons in citizenship and statistics. High school pupils should learn how to draw up and stick to a budget. There should be lessons on sustainability, globalization, technology and health. And more attention should be paid to health and a healthy lifestyle.

The council does not think that any new courses should be added to the curriculum. They want their proposals to be included in the existing course package. For example, citizenship can be added to history and social studies, but can also be a special project in Dutch. 

The council called it important to give teachers enough time to prepare for the new teaching material. Schools must also be given the space to come up with new teaching material themselves. 

It is now up to politicians to decide what changes need to be made and when. Minister Slob will come up with a substantive proposal by converting curriculum.nu's proposals into so-called "core objectives", according to the broadcaster. These will then be discussed in parliament.