Dear future Minister of Education, Culture and Science,
In anticipation of your appointment, we would like to tell you what should not be missing from the government’s plans for further education. In this letter we tell you about matters of fundamental importance.
It is no secret that education faces great challenges. At the same time, the complex issues of our time require a generation trained to deal with these issues. We are convinced that this requires innovation in education. Current education is good, but if we do not innovate, it will lead to a huge gap with the needs of students and teachers, resulting in an irreversible decline in the quality of education.
Education needs innovation in the broadest sense of the word, for example social innovation, technological innovation, innovation in the area of inclusion and student wellbeing. However, innovative processes in further education are increasingly being criticized. After all, educational innovation is a complex and far-reaching process, and therefore not always successful.
Educational innovation does not include teachers
Experienced educational innovators know that innovation processes are complex. They do not walk in a straight line, but follow a bumpy, winding path. Sometimes change manifests differently than planned, which can be a better or worse outcome. Additionally, it takes time before change actually leads to improvement. Concerns about educational innovation are therefore justified if changes occur too quickly and too equitably top down They are presented or implemented in very large steps with little regard for the experiences of students and teachers. Students ultimately suffer from this, and so do teachers.
Educational innovation is not possible without passionate teachers who implement changes in their teaching with passion and vision. Teachers must therefore be given the opportunity to innovate responsibly: allowing room to include different perspectives, appropriately map the consequences of changes, and act if negative consequences arise.
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So, give teachers space to experiment and learn, think critically and evaluate while working with students and teachers. There must also be room to make mistakes and learn from them together – teachers, students and administration. Without collaboration and supporting institutions, innovation will not happen and innovation will not lead to improvement.
Six interesting points
There are hundreds of teachers in secondary vocational education, higher vocational education and university education who have shown that successful and responsible innovation in education is possible. Some of them have won awards and grants, such as Comenius scholarships and Dutch tuition fees, and many of them are actively learning from each other and exchanging experiences. These teachers are not the direct target of educational innovation, but they have already taken the initiative.
At the same time, there is still a lot to do when it comes to innovation in our education. Your role and contribution are indispensable in this. This message is therefore a call to work with you and your ministry to make our education more beautiful, sustainable, inclusive and effective. We would like to draw your attention to the following points for the upcoming ministerial period:
- Continue investing in education innovation;
- Giving support, space and trust to innovative teachers, and preventing a culture of calculation;
- Strengthen and encourage cooperation between secondary vocational education, higher vocational education and university education;
- Take inclusion as a starting point in policy, also for students and teachers who have a background outside the Netherlands. Allow language policy to communicate, not exclude;
- Make real efforts to recognize and appreciate teachers and create serious professional and development pathways in secondary vocational education, higher vocational education and university education;
- Encouraging the interconnection between education, research, professional practice and society. Let them reinforce each other.
Teachers and students are counting on you!
Manage it Comenius Network (Network of recognized educational innovators from secondary vocational education, higher vocational education and university education).
- Clasjan Fischer (University of Twente),
- Jessica Zwiers (Hans University of Applied Sciences Groningen),
- Maria Garcia Alvarez (Hogeskool Windsheim)
- Sabine Oegel (Utrecht University)
- Constant Swinkels (Radboud University)
- Dimitri van Dielen (ROC Van Twente)
- Birgitte Bogard (Wageningen University and Research)
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