Slob pledges to step up efforts to cut 'unacceptable' school absence

Primary school teachers threaten week-long strike action

Around 4,000 children missed at least three months of school last year despite efforts by the government to tackle the causes of long-term absence. The number of so-called 'thuiszitters' was roughly the same in 2016/17 as in the previous academic year. Around 1700 children were not registered with a school at all. Education minister Arie Slob said the trend was 'not acceptable'. 'Children who don't go to school can fall behind in their education, but also miss out on making friends,' he said. Two years ago former children's ombudsman Marc Dullaert was given the job of enacting an agreement between the government, education authorities and municipalities to improve the system for reducing school absence. Dullaert said youth care and education services needed to work more closely together to identify children at risk of missing school. School absence is often linked to domestic problems such as an acrimonious divorce. The current government has extended Dullaert's term by six months. Slob said he also wanted to change the system for exempting children from school, which is currently the responsibility of family doctors. The minister said schools and local authorities should be involved in the process. 'That would help doctors making the decision because they don't always have a good picture of the available options to tailor the schooling for the pupil.'  More >

International student high at tech unis

Primary school teachers threaten week-long strike action The number of foreign students doing engineering and technical degrees in the Netherlands has never been higher, reports the Financieele Dagblad on Friday. Figures released from international education body Nuffic show that in the 2017/18 academic year, one in three Master’s degree students at the universities of Delft, Wageningen, Eindhoven and Enschede comes from abroad. The total number of degree students has risen from 3,751 in 2006 to more than 12,000 in the current academic year, with particularly high numbers from Germany, China and India. But the FD puts the numbers in the context of a debate around whether Dutch students are being disadvantaged by degree courses offered in English – something the Telegraaf called ‘English madness’ last month. ‘Internationalisation is a good thing but if the over-representation of foreign students becomes a problem, universities should ask themselves if they should be offering certain subjects in English,’ said Pieter Duisenberg, chairman of the Dutch universities association VSNU to the Telegraaf at the time. Fees His organisation told the FD on Friday that it could not confirm whether foreign students are displacing Dutch ones but said that if there was a suspicion of this, universities could reserve a number of places for local applicants. Anne Lutgerink, a spokesperson for Nuffic, told that while foreign students are commonly charged higher fees at English and American universities, this has not necessarily been the case in the Netherlands. She said the number of students at technical universities in general, both Dutch and international, has risen after campaigns to fill jobs in these areas – but that the amount of money from government still comes from the same pot. ‘In the US and UK, it is considered normal to attract international students from a profit perspective,’ she said. ‘That’s not considered the case in the Netherlands: they try to make it as cost-efficient as possible.’ She added that Nuffic supports internationalisation that enriches the quality of education. ‘It’s not a goal in itself,’ she added. ‘You can never say there should be a maximum or minimum of international students, but use it to the benefit of education.’ Non-EEA stop Delft University of Technology has said that from 1st February 2018, no non-EEA students will be considered for its next bachelors of computer science and engineering course, due to a massive increase in applications. 'We are very pleased about this popularity, and our position in the league tables, but we want to ensure the quality of our education so unfortunately we have to take this step,' a spokeswoman told 'It is important to have experiences with other cultures, but there must be a bit of a balance, and 50:50 Dutch and international is a nice number.' She added that foreign students are not charged disproportionately. 'We don't see it as income,' she said. 'Non-European students pay €10,000 a year, which is what we would get from the government.' But the FD cited the Dutch education ministry as saying it would be illegal to stop considering students from certain countries.  More >

Primary school teachers strike in north

Primary school teachers threaten week-long strike action Most primary schools in Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe provinces are closed on Wednesday as up to 6,000 teachers strike for more pay and better working conditions. Last week, education minister Arie Slob sealed a deal on reducing the pressure of work at primary schools, including a €237m pay-out to employ more teachers. Although this comes on top of the €270m already agreed, teachers, unions and school managers say it is not enough. They want the government to come up with an extra €630m to boost pay. Wednesday's action is the first of a series of rolling strikes which have been planned in support of the campaign. On March 14, teachers will strike in Flevoland, Utrecht and Noord Holland provinces and there will also be a major demonstration in Amsterdam.   More >

Schools look for safer destinations

Primary school teachers threaten week-long strike action A quarter of Dutch school trips abroad no longer include destinations that have been hit by terrorist attacks, a new poll says. Educational research bureau DUO polled 200 secondary schools and over two thirds of the respondents expressed doubts about the safety of such trips. Many schools have scrapped London, Paris and Berlin as destinations and are favouring smaller cities, like Valencia or Glasgow. Some schools are avoiding all European capitals. A small number of schools said they are abolishing trips abroad altogether, not because of terrorism but because of the risks involved in sending teachers abroad with a group of teenagers. ‘Safety is relative, of course. Something could happen at home as well,’ the AD quotes school administrator Rob Aarts as saying. According to the researchers, parents play an important role when it comes to deciding a destination. At over half of the schools some pupils are not allowed to go on a school trip abroad because their parents object. ‘Many schools respect the opinion of the parents although the ultimate decision lies with them,’ DUO researcher Liesbeth van der Woud told the paper. Some 83% of secondary schools in the Netherlands organise trips abroad.  More >

'Language course cons for immigrants'

Primary school teachers threaten week-long strike action Immigrants are falling victim to fraudulent language agencies, claims Trouw on Friday. The paper writes that – partly funded with government grants – some language agencies are giving fewer lessons than agreed, fiddling bills and ‘giving lessons in Arabic.’ Inspections body Blik op Werk received 110 complaints about language schools last year, Trouw says. In a parliamentary debate on Wednesday, junior social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees said that there have been ‘anonymous reports’ of fraud at language schools teaching students for integration exams. He announced an investigation into the claims, while also aiming to speed immigrants through the system by scrapping one test related to finding a job. Language courses for the ‘inburgering’ examinations used to be provided by the state but since 2013, immigrants from non-EU countries – who are required to take them to live in the Netherlands – have been able to choose their own courses. They are given a loan of €10,000 by the Duo testing body, and if they pass within three years, do not have to pay this back. Duo only funds courses that are accredited by Blik op Werk. Have you had any bad experiences at language schools? Email to share your stories.  More >