Dutch primary education has a huge problem, that also affects bio-economy developments. There’s a substantial shortage of teachers, the teaching profession is not appreciated much, and the pay gap with secondary education is decently described by the sector as ‘not appropriate’. Emergency measures like shorter school weeks or even closure of schools are not unthinkable anymore.
My youngest child is now in his last year of primary education, my daughter finished primary school last year. I noticed the problems at their school. School managers are worried, and I think we all should be worried. Very worried.
For November 6th a national full-day school strike is planned to focus attention on the education problems, and to ask government, again, to intervene. Schools will be closed that day. It’s a shame that the education system is forced to strike, but I think they are right. There’s very much at stake.
Without highly trained professionals, young children will start missing education
Sustainability plans never elaborate on the importance of elementary education to shape our children’s interest in the changing and unknown future, and to teach them the basic skills to cope with future challenges. Bio-economy and circular economy intentions never refer to primary school education. Obviously, planners think that elementary skills are either congenital, or will come automatically, or are not important. Of course, that is not true. Someone has to teach young children basic skills and basic curiosity and this someone needs to be a highly-trained and committed professional.
I suppose my children were lucky. Somehow their primary school does quite well, and also succeeds in organising trips to nearby farms, or organising extracurricular technology training. Very important activities, that do involve extra costs and teacher time, and also a lot of practical support and financial contributions from parents, companies and entrepreneurs. When such vital support is lacking, children will miss out on this very important practical learning.
Teaching professionals are vital to support a sustainable future
The purpose of the school is not just to teach children maths or reading. It’s also about teaching children to think. Bad elementary education results in young children with a disadvantage before they even start their secondary education. I know, there are plenty of initiatives in the Netherlands aimed at bringing young children into contact with technology or agro-industry. All very well, but when schools lack the capacity to utilise such opportunities, they’re useless, a waste of time.
I am very sceptical when people claim that the development of the bio-economy can be accelerated. I think that’s nonsense. Developing the bio-economy will take the time that it needs. Instead I do think that it’s easy to slow down the development of the bio-economy by making the wrong decisions, or by failing to act as desired. By preventing adverse impacts, we can support progress. For instance by supporting good primary education. And by promoting and appreciating the teacher profession at elementary schools.–/–
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