Pandemic aggravating existing teacher shortage, inequality in education: Education Council

Kids raising their hands in class
Kids raising their hands in classPhoto: luminastock/DepositPhotos

Dutch education needs targeted investments to prevent it from derailing due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Education Council said in advice to Education Ministers Ingrid van Engelshoven and Arie Slob. The crisis is aggravating problems that already existed in education, the council said, specifically mentioning the teacher shortage and inequality in education, NOS reports.

The Council advised that the government invests in five main categories - fighting the teacher shortages, equal opportunities or all pupils and students, reading skills, better access to the labor market and learning opportunities, and more flexibility for tests and exams to make them 'crisis proof'.

According to the Council, inequalities in education that existed before the pandemic are now even worse. Children from vulnerable families were more affected by the crisis, because their parents couldn't help them with their school work or they didn't have access to the technology needed for distance learning, for example. To help fix this, the government could invest in things like broad bridging classes and postponing school advice in group eight. 

Schools with many vulnerable students also need sufficient and well-trained teachers - another reason to tackle the teacher shortage. For this the Education Council advised closing the salary gap between primary and secondary education. And teachers who work in schools where the shortage is greatest, should earn more, the Council said.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, final tests and exams were canceled this academic year, even though these tests are extremely important. "In this way students can show what they can do and end up in an appropriate place in further education," Council chair Edith Hooge said. The Council wants tests to become more flexible so that there are alternatives during a crisis. Make it easier to move tests, take them digitally or orally more often, or spread them out more over the entire school year. "We were able to learn from the past period, so we ask the ministers to be ready and prepare."

The economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis mean that the labor market is looking a lot less rosy for graduates. This can cause uncertainty, stress and demotivation, while these young people will be badly needed after the crisis, the Education Council said. The government should therefore push extra money into guaranteeing internships and apprenticeships, the Council said. More attention must also be paid to  language issues in the courses, so that graduates can find a job more quickly.

The Education Council is the government's main advisory body when it comes to education. The Council's advice is not binding, the Education Minsters can decide whether or not to follow it.