Government chalks out a comprehensive master plan to improve elementary school skills

In recent years, the Covid crisis, teacher shortages and various other factors have had an adverse effect on elementary education in the Netherlands. It has been observed that many pupils finish primary school while lacking at basic skills such as reading, writing, math, digital literacy, and interacting with each other in a rapidly changing world. Furthermore, primary teachers’ educational skills are not up to the desired standard. Acting on these serious concerns, the government has devised a comprehensive plan for the next ten years to get the basics in order and improve the quality of education.

The proposed plan focuses on providing ample time and space to train teachers as well as steps to improve students’ basic skills. Primary teachers in association with education experts will provide knowledge, extra hands and help at school. Extra hands are set to be recruited in order to help about 150 primary and secondary schools to strengthen the basic skills of tens of thousands of students. In addition to this, 350 schools can apply for a subsidy to improve basic skills themselves. This will reduce the administration load for teachers, so they can primarily focus on teaching. Furthermore, teachers will be armed with more didactic and subject-specific knowledge, so they will enjoy their work more.

All these ideas are the highlights of the first draft of the plan, presented by the education minister Dennis Wiersma. Now the minister is in talks with teachers, school leaders, administrators, teacher training experts and other parties from the education sector to set out the details of the plan.

As the main causes for the problems, the minister highlighted the outdated and unstructured curriculum, an overloaded program, scarcity of manpower and a gap between educational science and practice. The list does not end here: trends such as digital entertainment, pupils who read and write less during their free time, and a decrease in the number of libraries are further culprits for the students’ lack of basic skills.

The plan also aims to improve teachers’ ability to teach various disciplines. For example, they must be given extra time to acquire knowledge and resources that they can apply in practice. Furthermore, all schools must use effective teaching methods, as identified in the most recent scientific research. The government is all set to provide support to give pupils a brighter future. Minister Wiersma also emphasized that it is not just about schools, but that all involved parties, such as parents, culture institutions, childcare and libraries, should come forward to improve pupils’ basic skills.

The education inspectorate will monitor whether the schools are taking the steps that are expected of them. Schools with lax approaches will be scrutinized and a stricter enforcement policy will be adopted to deal with unprofessionalism. According to the government, a coherent, long-term study will assess the improvement and development of education as a whole. The outcomes of the study will help the government to determine the development of basic skills, deficiencies in various areas and possible solutions to combat these deficiencies. This program will not only help to develop effective supervision at the school level, but bring fruitful changes to the entire Dutch education system.

The obvious question that arises in everyone’s mind is – when will we see the effects? Experts say we should not expect success overnight. It will take lots of hard work, the right attitude and continuous efforts to achieve the desired results.

Written by Parul Sachdeva