Major concerns about pressure on students & teachers in vocational, higher education


Education Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven is very concerned about the toll the coronavirus pandemic is having on both students and teachers. So far, the damage to the quality of education is limited, by the first study delays are already visible in secondary vocational education and higher professional education, she said in a letter to parliament, NOS reports.

Various studies have shown that students now struggle more with stress and depression than before the coronavirus crisis. They find studying at home difficult and worry about the future of their studies. Teachers and lecturers have an even higher workload now, having to also deal with distance teaching, and they miss contact with their students.

Over the past months, educational institutions have been mainly focused on limiting the damage caused by the pandemic, and less on the quality of education. Van Engelshoven is not concerned about the quality of the diploma, but she is worried about the way students are getting to it. “The fact that delays and drop-outs have been limited so far is a great achievement for students and everyone working in education,” she said. The Ministry will do everything it can to prevent delays and drop-outs. “But if the restrictions remain longer, we will have to accept that we cannot resolve some bottlenecks.”

She is already seeing the first signs of delays in secondary vocational education (MBO), and practical-orientated higher professional education (HBO). There is no online alternative for practical education. And the loss of real contact also hinders students’ development. The group of MBO students whose studies are taking longer than expected is increasing slightly. And in HBO, it is expected that there will be a delay in the second half of this academic year, because internships and practical training are not taking place at the moment.

Study delays are expected to increase, and the well-being of students and teachers won’t improve as long as the coronavirus measures remain in force, Van Engelshoven said. “Students and teachers have shown incredible flexibility, but there is a limit to that.”

The Minister is looking at solutions, like using empty sports and conference halls for physical lessons. But her main hope is that rapid coronavirus tests will bring relief. She wants education to be first in line as soon as circumstances permit it.

Student unions LSVB and ISO are not surprised by the Minister’s concerns. Both unions want students to be compensated for delays. “It cannot be that they have to pay the bill for the coronavirus crisis themselves,” LSVB chairman Lyle Muns said to NOS.