29 percent of students at ASO graduated with a diploma in science and mathematics in the 2019-2020 school year. This is evidenced by the figures from the Ministry of Education, compiled by Statistics Flanders. Ten years ago, in the 2010-2011 school year, this was still 22 percent of students.
Françoise Chombert, CEO of Melexis and head of the STEM platform that advises the Flemish government, applauds this. “Our world is getting more and more technological. So we need a lot of STEM profiles.”
The popularity of the Science and Mathematics major matches the broader trend of students towards STEM. These are all STEM-focused disciplines. For example, 36 percent of students at the start of second grade chose a STEM major in the 2019-2020 school year, a STEM observer recently showed. Ten years ago it was 33%. The same trend continues in higher education.
However, this affinity for STEM is less pronounced in TSO and BSO, and yet the hegemony of technical trends. “This is concerning,” says Chombar. “These courses are often considered inferior. Totally wrong of course. My experience at Melexis shows that engineers and technicians complement each other, and one cannot exist without the other.”
In general, there are simply fewer shifts in the popularity of TSO and BSO study options. The one thing that is remarkable is that the ‘care’ trend is now the most popular after school care. Ten years ago that was an “office”.
On the other hand, language courses at ASO are less common. In particular, the percentage of degrees in classical languages decreased from 23 percent (2010-2011) to 17 percent (2019-2020). “In fact, we’ve seen students pick up a little Latin and Greek for nearly twenty years,” says Kathleen Shippens, a spokeswoman for the Society of Teachers of Ancient Languages (VLOT vzw) and a Latin teacher herself. “This is not the case only in Flanders.”
Classica Flanden, the comprehensive association of classical language education organizations, is keeping a close eye on the numbers. “We note that schools that associate classical language with mathematics are more likely to allow those languages to survive,” says Reinhart Seulmans, Senior Lecturer in Greek Literature (KU Leuven). Students choose those directions from a specific idea To keep all options open, for example for entrance exams.”
Why do fewer students choose Latin or Greek? According to Shippens, this is the result of an efficiency mindset, in which students and parents choose those directions they believe have the best future. “While the government is campaigning for STEM, it is clear that young people are choosing it.”
Chippens admits that this trend was originally accompanied by sighs and complaints among colleagues. “I can imagine some of them fell off a pedestal,” she says. “On the other hand, we are getting rid of the image of the most famous trend. Students are now choosing Latin because they are interested in it. This is a blessing.”
The fact that fewer students are choosing language and literature is cause for concern. “This is not just a problem for universities, but for education as a whole,” Seolmans says. “For some teachers in elementary schools, for example, teaching reading and writing is less easy because languages were less discussed in their own training. This puts you in a vicious circle. This is problematic. I’m not talking about the importance of the DT rule, but kids who can no longer Understand text or read newspapers.
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