What should the class schedule of the future look like? Should the curriculum evolve? And which subjects are missing in Flemish education? Nearly four hundred readers responded to those questions. We distill seven striking proposals.
1. Before the curriculum can be considered, some readers feel another question needs to be answered. Namely: what is our education actually for?
‘We must first ask ourselves what we want to achieve. Pure knowledge transfer? Train people for the labor market? Or produce independent, critical, creative young adults? It now seems that education should be useful, a profitable investment aimed at getting as many people as possible to work.’
2. The majority of readers agree on how we can save education: with a focus on knowledge. According to many, language, reading and arithmetic are the starting points for good and strong education. The decline in educational quality forces us to intervene in the first years of learning: ‘Make the foundation rock-solid.’
‘The decline starts in primary education. Put one there solid foundation: more attention to building knowledge of Dutch/arithmetic through a combination of memory training and learning to understand. Motivate students to excel instead of pampering them with fill-in-the-blank books.’
‘Save the future by starting with the first three years of primary education. Lay a foundation through a simple logical uniform system in math and language education. The level of insight into the subject matter and good communication (with student and parent) must be increased. It is not normal that sometimes a third of the students in the class have to rely on speech therapists. Make the foundation rock-solid.’
3. For many readers, the curriculum itself is in need of an update. Although there is no consensus about what exactly needs to change. Some think there are too many hours of French, others argue for extra hours. Several readers argue in favor a new subject. Two suggestions:
‘There should be a subject in sixth grade about… administration what you have to deal with when you grow up: health insurance, taxes, banking, insurance.’
‘The profession we miss most is long-term thinking. We live in a context of hyper-fast Tiktok information flows. Everything is determined by the issues of the day. Long-term thinking helps children see the most important trends and put the news of the day into perspective. It also helps to make strategic choices in life.’
4. Striking: some readers see merit in the higher education model. They advocate a more modular and flexible system in secondary education. For example, Rogier V. thinks of a distinction between self-study subjects, project groups and online education. ‘That requires some organisation, but we also do that in higher education. I think there is much more educational gain to be made there.’
‘Electives at all levels of the school system. Just as people can choose between certain subjects at a university of applied sciences, you should also be able to do the same in secondary school. And create the flexibility to change easily. Let them search, choose and grow for themselves what they are really interested in. Today, the middle period is something you just have to get through as soon as you have chosen a direction, unfortunately.’
‘I am in favor of it myself modular education. More flexibility, not having to repeat years unnecessarily, etc. In return, there is more responsibility, such as using a holiday period to catch up.’
5. Several readers do not argue for new subjects at all, but for one upgrading of existing subjects. ‘The problem is not in the subject package, but in the status that certain subjects are given and others are not,’ Leen summarizes.
‘Greater attention to exact sciences. Young people are often deterred because “difficult subjects” are. An effort to make science more attractive, for example by addressing the role of science for the challenges of the future, can encourage more young people to be more eager to learn science.’
‘The fact that all art and movement subjects have been banned from schools for years is a revenge. Experiencing art, thinking and philosophizing about aesthetics, creating yourself without having to perform, experimenting, moving and playing provides an essential connection with ourselves. So please find balance in the timetable again: wake up the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It will benefit everyone and make it easier to absorb knowledge, because the student will feel better about himself.’
6. The fact that the newspaper used the examples French and Latin heated emotions. The subject that appears most often in the responses is not Dutch, French or mathematics, but religion and philosophy. Several readers argue that the box should be deleted or at least filled in differently.
‘Abolish the useless religion lessons off. Provide religious reflections in the subject “people and society”. The freed up time can be used to prepare the youth for “life”. Growing economic, financial and social skills. Dealing with other cultures. And those other cultures have to learn to deal with our culture. Dealing critically with news and media. The coming generation must be able to arm itself against the far right or left, or even religious ideas.’
7. Finally, the most ‘liked’ response was that of Hilde V. In her response, she does not focus so much on the curriculum, but on how that curriculum is translated on the classroom floor.
‘I don’t think it’s about the subjects themselves, but about the skills you learn through them. Mathematics trains logical thinking. Science or history or geography teaches you to think critically. Languages sharpen your communication skills. And that’s where the shoe pinches. Fill-in books, for example, prevent learning all those skills because they do some of the work. And for languages, explicitly no word lists are learned, which means that the memory is trained much less.’
The ‘ordinary’ citizen often has extraordinary solutions. Share your solutions and help save the future.
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