Former teacher at orthodox Jewish school faces five years in jail for abusing pupils

A former teacher at an orthodox Jewish school in Amsterdam should be jailed for five years for sexually abusing six boys, the public prosecution department said on Wednesday. Ephraim S, who denies the charges, is said to have carried out the assaults between 2011 and 2012 at the Cheider school in Buitenveldert on boys aged between 12 and 16. The school authorities initially declined to press charges after holding an internal investigation and only reported the matter to police several months later after the education minister intervened. S fled to Israel when the allegations first came to light, but was extradited to the Netherlands in 2016. He has since been held in custody. The court heard on Monday that his behaviour first attracted attention early in 2012 when he was suspended by the school for giving inappropriate massages to children. S claimed he had ‘only touched them on the shoulders,’ but the alleged victims claimed that the contact extended to other body parts, including sexual organs.  More >

Wageningen University inks Chinese deal

Wageningen University is to to head the development of a new food and agriculture research centre east of Beijing, the Financieele Dagblad said on Monday. Wageningen’s chancellor Arthur Mol, who was part of the recent Dutch trade mission to China, told the paper the university was not investing any money in the €1bn project, but it would supply a great deal of knowledge. The research centre will house academic institutions and the business community who will work together to make Chinese agriculture more productive and to tackle environmental issues. The aim is to create China’s leading R&D centre in the field of  agriculture and food. Mol said Dutch companies are also welcome to play a role in developments. The mayor of Beijing will come to Wageningen in October to discuss further details. In January Groningen University dropped plans to open a campus in Yantai, China, citing a lack of support for the plan. Some staff and students were worried about the academic independence of the Chinese campus. Wageningen has close ties with a number of Chinese institutions and already has an office in Beijing. The University is also involved in a joint venture with China to improve standards in the dairy industry. Chinese students, both MSc and PhD, make up 10% of the Wageningen students population and the trend is set to continue, the university says on its website.  More >

Technology more popular among girls

Girls are increasingly opting for technology-based courses but the trend stops at higher education level, new CBS figures over the school year 2017/18 show. The number of girls in the pre-college (havo) and pre-university (vwo) streams opting for the Nature and Technology profile, in which mathematics, physics and chemistry are mandatory subjects, went up from 2% and 6% to 10% and 28% respectively over the past 10 years. Technology-based education is still predominantly the preserve of boys, however. Some 26% of boys at havo level and 43% of boys in pre-university streams opting for the science-based course. Despite the increasing popularity of technology-based subjects among girls, the trend does not continue in higher education. The number of women choosing traditionally male bastions such as civil engineering, industry or technology at college or university level went up from 2% to 3%. A poll by Microsoft in 2017 among 11,500 girls in Europe showed that girls have in interest in technology-related subjects when they are 11 but that this disappears around the age of 14. The main reason for this is the lack of inspiring female role models, the poll showed.  More >

Functional illiteracy costs society €1bn

Not being able to read or write properly is costing society over a billion euros a year, according to report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The report, commissioned by literacy foundation Lezen & Schrijven, says some 2.5 million people in the Netherlands are functionally illiterate, almost twice the number than was previously thought. Half of the quoted cost is shouldered by the group itself. People with inadequate reading and writing skills are more likely to be unemployed, or working in low-skilled jobs. This means they are missing out on €572m worth of earnings, PwC calculated. The rest of the amount is made up of higher health care costs for the functionally illiterate, lower tax revenue and higher benefits. According to the researchers their estimate is ‘conservative’ because they have only looked at costs which are directly linked to poor reading and numeracy skills. According to the foundation’s director Geke van Velzen, the high costs are ‘a missed opportunity’. ‘These people should be able to profit from the economic upturn as much as anyone else. The Netherlands would be more prosperous, more competitive and healthier if we tackled this problem,’ she told the NRC.  More >