SER advice: 'Tackling a teacher shortage, high work pressure and full classes'
Education can play a major role in reducing the inequality of opportunity between students. However, this does require structural investments, as the SER writes today in its advice on Equal Opportunities in Education.
The place where your cradle is still determines the opportunities you get in your life, the Social and Economic Council points out in the report. Equal opportunities in education. Education is an important means of changing this, but it does not yet play the role of the 'great equalizer'. 'On the contrary', says the SER, 'the inequality of opportunity is sometimes increased rather than reduced.'
The latter is partly due to the fact that the preconditions are not in order. 'There are major bottlenecks, such as teacher shortages, too much work pressure and too full classes.' Furthermore, students would be preselected too early for one particular type of education.
'Ensure smaller classes, more salary, less work pressure, more time for preparation, and for the deployment of teaching assistants'
The SER comes up with a large package of recommendations to promote equality of opportunity. 'Take care of the teacher shortage. Provide smaller classes, more salary, less work pressure, more time for preparation, and for the deployment of teaching assistants.' Investments should also be made in the development and quality of teachers and school leaders.
According to the SER, class reductions can contribute to better educational performance of students and to more effective teaching. 'This will help to turn the tide of declining educational performance in the areas of mathematics and language, among other things.'
Furthermore, students in the Netherlands would be selected too early for a certain type of education. 'Selecting later than at the age of eleven or twelve should become the norm. For example, by providing additional funding for community schools and a 'Brede Brugklas Bonus'. But in such a broad first year there must be room for sufficient differentiation between pupils, says the SER. 'And that is only possible with smaller classes and enough time for teachers.'
According to the SER, the inequality of opportunity between students has increased again in the past year due to the corona crisis. Children from families with a lower socio-economic background are more affected by the measures taken because of corona. 'For example, the gap has widened between children with a stimulating and facilitating home environment and children who lack that.'
'The basis of education must be strengthened'
Via the national action plan NPO, an additional 8,5 billion euros will be invested in education over the next two and a half years. And that's great, according to the SER, but the money is temporary. 'There is a need for integral, structural and sustainable policy, whereby the basis of education is strengthened, the quality is increased and all children receive appropriate support in order to be able to develop as well as possible.'
“Equality of opportunity is in everyone's interest,” says SER crown member Steven van Eijck, former State Secretary (LPF) and tax economist. 'Everyone should be given the opportunity to develop to their own potential. It is nice to use your talents, to do what you are good at and to develop further. And that is also good for our society.”