Neelie Kroes: A good teacher is a (rock) star

Technology has the potential to make learning – and teaching – fun, writes Neelie Kroes

It seems ages since the election. Fears of a patchwork political landscape have proved unfounded and we’re now in the middle of negotiating our way to a strong, lasting centre cabinet, one that can afford to think ahead.

There’s one subject on which all parties should agree. It’s about investing in people, economic competitiveness and our future: education. It wasn’t a subject that dominated the election campaigns but it should be a priority for the new coalition.

If you are one of those people who enjoyed a good education and experienced the life-changing power of learning, you know how invaluable it is. Dutch success was founded on people and their qualities and the ability to attract and nourish talent.


Unfortunately schools don’t cut it anymore when it come to attracting teaching talent, nor are they the best place for children’s talents to flourish. Recent EU research shows the Netherlands has a lack of good teachers, especially when it comes to science.

How can it be that schools have not moved on from when I was a student sixty years ago? Last week I visited a primary school in Sofia, Bulgaria. The school had been given technologically advanced learning materials by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The teachers’ main complaint was they ‘wouldn’t be able to get rid of the children at the end of the day’. Education had become fun.

Digital world

We need a fresh look at education and using today’s digital means preparing our children for life in the digital world. Instead of a classroom pest, the mobile phone can become a tool for cooperative play and learning by playing, and for reading e-books. Google Docs and programmes like it are giving teachers the opportunity to follow the students’ progress, inside or outside the classroom.

The new technologies are allowing children to learn at their own, individual pace irrespective of ability or they can involve the class as a whole. New tools can make the teaching profession an attractive and interesting option. Good teachers deserve to be as popular as rock stars!

Classroom of the 21st century

The Obama administration is investing $2bn in Open Educational Resources. Harvard, MIT and Berkeley are offering free courses. Some attract more than a hundred thousand students. This is top quality education for ‘everyone, everywhere at any time’. The challenge is to use tablets and smart phones to stimulate and amuse students in the classrooms of the 21st century.

The Netherlands has the potential to do this. Nearly every Dutch student has a computer at home. The education ministry has earmarked €20m for schools to change their approach. Wikiwijs has online materials while the DigitalSchool offers alternative learning routes supported by 35 of our most innovative teachers.

It would show leadership in the new cabinet if it were to make modern, technologically-supported education a real priority.


Neelie Kroes is EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda.


This article was published earlier in the Financieele Dagblad


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