Colleges and universities have been hit hard by the coronavirus measures but so far this has not affected student progress and educational quality, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has told MPs.
However, the decline in student welfare, more pressure on teachers and lecturers, the lack of work experience places and practical training is cause for worry, the minister said in a letter about the consequences of coronavirus for education.
Many students have trouble studying at home and are experiencing stress and depression while teachers miss the normal exchanges between lecturer and student, the minister said.
This has, so far, not lead to a significant number of drop outs or slowdown of study progress, figures have shown. Van Engelshoven called the results ‘a great achievement by students, administrators and all those who work in education.’
There is however, a limit to their flexibility, she told broadcaster NOS, and things may change for the worse the longer the measures remain in place.
The quality of the education is also a worry, not because there are doubts about the value of the degrees and diplomas, but because students are missing the interaction with their peers. In addition, online classes are not a good substitute for the practical training vocational college students need, the minister said.
This is offset by the fact that students have indicated that their ability to study independently has increased and that all sectors are working hard to make online education more varied and interactive, she said.
Van Engelshoven is looking at using empty sports and facilities or congress halls to make practical lessons possible, and said education should be prioritised for fast testing in order to bring some relief in the next school year.
Of particular concern is a lack of places for trainee nurses.The number of students is bigger than in previous years but trainee places in hospitals and care homes are scarce because they cannot provide the necessary coaching, the minister said.
Student unions LSvb and ISO say they wanted students to be compensated for any delays caused by coronavirus measures. ‘They can’t be footing the bill for this,’ LSvb chair Lyle Mins told the broadcaster.
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