Saturday 18 September 2021

Go figure: MPs agree schoolchildren don’t need expensive calculators

School equipment adds up to a pricey ‘free’ education Photo: Depositphotos

Adding up the cost of schooling can be a painful experience, especially for father of four Arjen van Gijssel, who has spent hundreds in replacement calculators to meet his teenage children’s constantly-changing school equipment list.

The 52-year-old from Ruurlo, Gelderland started a one-man campaign, complaining to parliament via an email to CDA MP René Peters, who telephoned him the following day.

Now, the matter has won the support of the house of representatives and been escalated to the ministry of education, where schools minister Arie Slob is trying to figure out what equipment pupils really need.

Parents are at the mercy of calculator manufacturers, who cash in each time they launch a new model, Van Gijssel believes. ‘You have to follow those lists, and if the machine of the first child is no longer on the list, then it cannot be passed on,’ he told ‘That was something which annoyed me because those machines are [around] €110.’

‘I’m not complaining that I have four children and that children cost money, and it’s not that I have a low income or something, but we say to parents that there is free education, but in practice that is not the case.’

Van Gijssel points out that dictionaries, laptops and trip money for visits abroad all add to the burden of the ‘free’ Dutch education system.

Father of four calculating the costs Photo: Arjen van Gijssel

Van Gijssel’s action was also a quest for transparency. ‘I thought to myself: What is this system? Who is to gain from this situation when parents pay a lot of money?’

While the social housing advisor’s children (aged 14 to 22) are ‘proud’ but ‘embarrassed’ by his efforts, he said he has received ‘an overwhelmingly warm response’ from parents − ‘captive customers’, he says, who are counting the costs.

‘I must admit, I was surprised that it was picked up so swiftly, but I think that is because it is a real annoyance for many people, even in the education world itself,’ he added.

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