Dutch continue to read less, but paper still rules: report

Dutch continue to read less, but paper still rules: report

  Just four in 10 teenagers pick up a book to read for leisure, as do just 49% of people aged 20 to 34, according to a new study on the reading habits of the Dutch over the last 10 years by the government’s social advisor SCP. In 2006 65% of teenagers and 85% of young adults regularly read books. The trend away from reading physical books and newspapers is apparent across all age groups. The number of people picking up a book or paper and reading at least 10 minutes at a stretch every week has fallen from 90% in 2006 to 72% a decade later. Paper is still preferred to screens, mostly by women, older people and people with a lower level of education, the researchers said. Some 90% of the over 65s still read regularly. The SCP calls the trend ‘worrying’ because of the ‘loss of personal and social benefits’ associated with reading. While the time squeeze influences reading behaviour but that does not explain the differences in reading habits between teenagers and older people and people with higher and lower levels of education, the SCP said. However, youngsters who take to reading, read almost as much as elderly readers, with men reading more than women, the researchers said. Paper still rules, the SCP found, despite the ubiquitous presence of screens and screen-based reading material. Screen reading is often combined with other media activities, which the SCP suggests may impair people’s capacity to read at a stretch for longer periods of time. Some 45% of the time spent on screen reading is combined with some other form of other media use.  More >

Wild birds used in insomnia experiments

Groningen University uses wild starlings for experiments about sleeplessness Researchers at Groningen University are using hundreds of wild starlings and jackdaws in an experiment about the impact of insomnia, RTL news said on Thursday. Campaign group Animal Rights says the university is breaking the law by using wild birds and that animal experimentation rules state only animals bred in captivity can be used, unless there is no alternative. The group claims the birds - up to 250 starlings and 50 jackdaws - are captured in nest boxes while young and have measuring equipment attached to their brains, after which they are are kept awake by being forced to fly in their cages. Once the relevant information has been collected, the birds are killed. 'We do not understand why animals should suffer because of curiosity about what a shortage of sleep does to them,' director Robert Molenaar said in a statement. The experiment, he said, is a 'classic example of unethical animal experiments.' The university said no laws have been broken because the experiment has been authorised by the animal testing commission. 'The aim of the UG is to hold as few animal experiments as possible, and where possible not to use laboratory or other animals at all,' the university said in a statement. 'The research is being conducted within the framework of scientific sleep research and makes an important contribution.'  More >

Researchers discover world's oldest moths

World’s oldest moths also roamed Jurassic Park, say Utrecht researchers An international team of scientists led by researchers from Utrecht University have found the oldest fossil remains of moths and butterflies known to date. The fossil remains are more than 70 million years older than the oldest fossils of flowering plants and shed new light on the co-evolution between flowering plants and pollinating insects, researchers Timo van Eldijk and Bas van de Schootbrugge claim. The fossil remains - wing and body scales - were isolated from a core of sediment drilled in northern Germany which straddles the mass-extinction event. The researchers say the butterflies and moths seemed to have avoided the impact of the mass extinction event at the end of the Triassic era. 'As the super continent Pangea started to break apart, biodiversity on land and in the oceans suffered a setback with many key species becoming extinct,' says Master's student Van Eldijk. ‘However, one major group of insects, the Lepidoptera moths and butterflies, appeared unaffected. Instead, this group diversified during a period of ecological turnover.’ Palaeontologist Bas van de Schootbrugge says the fossil remains contain distinctive hollow scales, and provide clear evidence that there was a group of moths sucking mouth-parts, as have the vast majority of living moths and butterflies. Modern day butterflies are well known for their association with flowering plants and the butterfly ‘tongue’ has long been assumed to be an important adaptation for feeding on flowering plants. ‘This evidence has transformed our understanding of the evolutionary history of moths and butterflies as well as their resilience to extinction,’ says Van Eldijk. ‘By studying how insects and their evolution was affected by dramatic greenhouse warming at the start of the Jurassic era, we hope to provide insight into how insects might respond to the human-induced climate change challenges we face today.’  More >

Action needed on foreign students: UvA

Everything you wanted to know about Mein Kampf but were afraid to ask The University of Amsterdam is concerned about the rise in the number of foreign students and has asked education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven for help in managing the flow, the Parool reported on Tuesday. The rise in the number of international students is putting pressure on student housing and reducing the availability of places for Dutch students, the university's rector Karen Maex said in a speech, marking the UvA's 386th anniversary. Some 15% of the UvA's student body is now foreign, but that rises to 25% among first year students. In her speech, which was in English, Maex said that the university needs to strike a balance between Dutch and English courses. Firstly, the university wants 'Dutch programmes with a touch of English' which will make it possible for international students to come to Amsterdam for shorter periods of time on exchange programmes. And secondly, 'we want English-taught programmes with specific learning objectives that also pay attention to Dutch language skills for the Dutch-speaking students,' Maex, who is Belgian, said. Dutch literature Her remarks come after several professors have gone public with their concerns about Dutch literature classes being taught in English - including translations of classic writers such as Vondel. Others have also expressed concerns about the poor standard of English used by both lecturers and students. Maex also said that steps need to be taken to manage the expectations of foreign students coming to the university, some 70% of whom come from other EU countries. Housing What is needed is 'a good and unambiguous admissions process in which it is clear whether the programme fits their existing knowledge and ambitions, a good intake and initial introduction, and detailed information about student housing,' she said. 'Student housing is a continuous concern. We are urging the city of Amsterdam to provide more student housing and of course we will continue to contribute to help find solutions,' Maex said. There should also be measures to control international student numbers, she said. 'Can you imagine a lecture hall in the future consisting for 80% of students from Germany, or from China? This is not in line with what we have in mind for an international classroom. It would not contribute to our goals,' Maex said. 80,000 The number of foreign students in the Netherlands has doubled in the past 10 years, hitting some 80,000 in the 2016/17 academic year, according to a report by international education group Nuffic at the end of last year. Of these students, some 25% will remain in the Netherlands to live and work, mainly in the urban central belt stretching from Amsterdam to Utrecht and Rotterdam, Nuffic said. Last July, the government's research watchdog KNAW raised concerns that too many Dutch colleges and universities lacked a coherent policy on the issue of using English as the language of instruction. Around 20% of undergraduate-level courses were taught completely in English in the last academic year, a figure which rises to 60% for master’s courses. Read the full speech   More >

Primary schools closed as teachers strike

Everything you wanted to know about Mein Kampf but were afraid to ask Primary schools across the Netherlands are closed on Tuesday as tens of thousands of teachers go on strike for more pay and improved working conditions. It is the second nationwide one-day strike by teachers in 2.5 months. Unlike during October's strike, no major rallies have been planned in support of teachers' demands. Campaigners are calling for €1.4bn in extra spending – €900m to boost teachers’ pay and €500m to reduce their workload. In total, some 7,000 schools are likely to be affected by the all-day strike. Research published by Trouw in October shows that many teachers who have left the profession are prepared to return, if salaries are improved and the workload is cut. An estimated 31,000 people have a primary school teaching certificate (pabo) but have left the education system. But two thirds of 561 people in the survey said they would be certain, or likely, to return to teaching if working conditions and pay improved. Teaching union Abo said most of the 60,000 teachers in the primary school sector will be on strike.  More >