With the lockdown in the Netherlands, almost every age group and lifestyle in Dutch society has been affected in some way. The elderly in nursing homes have been isolated from their loved ones and family. Working parents with school-aged children have been left struggling filling the roles of teachers as well as employees from their own homes. School-aged children and students have not been able to play sports, socialize with their friends and attend school, which has caused major fears that some disadvantaged students may be falling behind in their education. Some may be not be able to graduate, especially those in secondary vocation education (MBO) or tertiary vocational education (HBO), who were unable to finish their internships. In order to mitigate this problem, the government has made extra funds available.
In order to help students in the Netherlands make up for the setback, Ingrid van Engelshoven, minister of Education, Culture, and Science, and Arie Slob, minister of Elementary and Secondary Education and Media, announced in late May that the Dutch government will assign €500 million for education. From the total sum, €200 million will be allocated for students to mitigate the consequences of the corona crisis.
To prevent delay in students’ education, MBOs, HBOs and universities are providing online alternatives for their students, so they do not experience more setbacks in the curriculum. However, educational programs that require students to complete internships unfortunately had to be postponed. Especially for MBO and HBO, internships and apprenticeships with companies are an important aspect of their education. As during the corona crisis, companies implemented stay-at-home policies for most employees, with the exceptional of vital occupations, many students were unable to finish their internships and thus their degrees. Therefore, students who are required to re-enroll and graduate between September 2020 and the end of January 2021, will be compensated with a payment from the state that is approximately three months of tuition. MBO students will receive €300 euros a month and university students €535 a month.
Moreover, the government will compensate students who are entitled to a basic grant from the state together with a supplementary grant. MBO students whose state financing expires in July, August and September will receive a one-off grant of €800. University students whose entitlements to a basic and supplementary grant expire in these months will receive €1,500.
For elementary, secondary and vocational schools that experience financial problems, the Dutch government has allocated €244 million. With this ear-marked money, schools can choose to provide additional programs such as summer schools during the summer holidays of 2020 and 2021 to help students catch up.
Since many students in MBO and HBO courses were unable to finish their internships, there is now a glut of students who still need to finish the practical part of their courses. The department of Education wants to ensure that there are enough internships and apprenticeships for MBO students after the corona crisis. The government will subsidize companies to take on more student interns and has allocated an additional €30 million as an incentive to companies that offer internships.
Another group that risks lagging in their education are foreigners who are learning Dutch as a second language. With an additional €21 million, the government hopes to stimulate programs to help non-native residents learn Dutch, so they increase their chances on the labour market. For these students, online programs have proven to be less effective than for native Dutch speakers, but this money will hopefully go some way to make online education more effective.
Two weeks after the government announced its €500 million package deal to stimulate education, the department of Education, Culture, and Science declared it will allocate an additional €1.4 million to provide more online learning environments for developing public and higher education programs, in collaboration with SURF, an ICT organization that works with Dutch schools, universities and research facilities. With this multi-year scheme, that will award individual programs grants of as much as €175,000, the government hopes to stimulate more innovative and experimental online learning projects in higher education. With a myriad of online educational programs in the make, parents in the future might not be as stressed by having to bring their kids to school on time, but on the other hand, they may be overwhelmed by having their children stay at home all day. The future will tell.
Written by Benjamin B. Roberts