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General approach for equal opportunities in education
The Equal Opportunities Alliance (Gelijke Kansen Alliantie) (only in Dutch), an initiative of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, was launched by both Minister Bussemaker and Secretary of State Dekker in October 2016 in a letter to the Lower House of Parliament. Together with stakeholders within and outside the educational field, the Alliance promotes equal opportunities in education for all children. The Alliance is a partnership between teachers, parents, schools, employers and civil society. Main targets are smoother transitions between school types, learning from each other, awareness raising, and space to experiment.
The financial investment is € 87 million for three years (€ 25 million in 2017, € 32 million in 2018 and € 30 million in 2019), and a structural budget of € 26 million as of 2020.
Transitions between school levels
Transitions between school levels provide a major bottleneck. Parents with lower education run a risk of making further education choices for their children that do not do justice to their children’s talents. These parents have little or no experience and insufficient knowledge of the possibilities of the Dutch education system. That is why the ministry decided to structurally invest € 14,5 million in so-called Switch classes (Schakelklassen) (only in Dutch). In the transition between primary and secondary education it concerns children who do not get stimulated at home or have language or learning disadvantages.
In pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) 5,000 pupils per year participate in a so-called Switch programme (Schakelprogramma) where they prepare themselves for the first year of senior general secondary education (HAVO) or secondary vocational education (MBO). A structural investment of € 7.5 million is set aside for the transition from secondary vocational education (MBO) towards higher education (HBO). Also, there is a designated budget of € 2.5 million for MBO-students who want to study to become teachers in primary education (Pedagogische academie voor het basisonderwijs Pabo), in particular for MBO-students with a migrant background. An extra € 4 million is invested to encourage MBO-students to ‘scale up’ (to continue education on a higher level). (See for an explanation about Dutch school types par. 6.1.2).
Evidence of various studies, among others of the Inspectorate of Education (Inspectie van het Onderwijs), the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy WRR (Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid WRR), the Netherlands Institute for Social Research SCP (Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau SCP) and OECD (OESO), shows that children with equal talents do not have equal opportunities in education. Their opportunities are partly determined by the level of education of their parents and thesupport they can provide for their children. Instead of decreasing, the differences sometimes can grow when children go to school.
Support for children with low-skilled parents
Twenty schools in big cities receive space to experiment with teachers that have dedicated hours to support disadvantaged students or to coach colleagues. In 2017 and 2018 there is a budget of € 3 million for these experiments. An amount of € 2 million is assigned to the programme ‘Count me in with language’ (Tel mee met taal, 2017-2018) (only in Dutch). 10,000 parents with limited language skills will be trained, coached and supported in parenting.
Students as role model
On 6 July 2017 Minister Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science launched the Students-4-Students campaign. Students in higher education are coaches or role models matched to students in secondary vocational education (MBO) or to students who just started higher education. Their aims are to achieve a better flow and less dropout in and towards higher education. A yearly budget of € 1 million is available for this campaign.
The Minister realizes that these investments and measures alone are not enough. For a sustainable approach the combined efforts of the Equal Opportunities Alliance is crucial. As of July 2017 over a hundred organizations are part of the Alliance. 23 large municipalities started with the preparation and implementation of their own action plans on equal opportunities for all children.
On 25 July the ministry presented an Equal Opportunities magazine in a letter to the Lower House of Parliament. The magazine reports about the results and gives the floor to teachers and school leaders who are determined to make a difference. They are all looking for new partnerships to strengthen the alliance between teachers, parents and coaches.