English in Dutch Education 2

In my continued search for the position of English in Dutch education and what the needs are for professional development in English teaching, I visited some more conferences in March and April. This time about developments and leadership in VO (Secondary Education) and in MBO (Vocational Education).

On 30 March I attended the VO Congres with the topic of ‘Managing Change’.

Paul Rosenmöller, ‘ het nieuwe denken is doen!

Paul Rosenmöller, President of the VO Raad and former politician opened the conference. He received a big applause when he urged The Hague (i.e. the political parties in The Hague) to take further action and to approve the Onderwijs2032 Act. His motto was ‘het nieuwe denken is doen’!

One of the workshops I attended was to learn more about the specifics of this Onderwijs2032 Act which, other then the name may suspect, is about changes needed now.  So that the curriculum will meet the educational needs of the children who start their education now and will finish in the year 2032.

What do I need now, to work in the future?

The underlying thought is to prepare them for an ever changing job market as we already know that many jobs in the future don’t even exist at this moment! So, not an easy task unless you are able to predict the future? Things I learned at this conference, are:

  1. The Opleidingsschool: a new development (for me) is that some VO schools that are leading in innovation, form an Opleidingsschool where innovation is shared and discussed between teachers of different VO schools in a so called werkplaatsen, i.e. work practice discussions.
  2. Together with representatives of Teacher Training Colleges (HBO and University), they form a partnership in what is called a ‘Leernetwerk’ to create joined ownership for a curriculum that is fit for purpose when teaching at VO Schools.
  3. The need for more ‘Cup of Soup Moments’; a Dutch culture joke and a call for more reflection. And as I understand it especially for teachers, who have too many tasks and barely time to reflect on the quality of teaching in their classrooms.
  4. It was clear that ‘doorlopende leerlijnen’ and ‘vakoverstijgende leerinhouden’ in VO which roughly translates into ‘continued education programmes’ and ‘curriculum that transcends subject areas’ are hot topics. This and more ownership in what teachers need to successfully teach and prepare students for HBO or University and their future careers.
  5.  Parliament was going to make further decisions regarding the proposed changes in Onderwijs2032 on 13 and 19 April. For me it was reassuring to hear that round table discussions will be part of the further process of implementing changes and that those will include the Vereniging voor Levende Talen (an Association for Language Teachers) as one of the proposed changes is English from an earlier age in Primary Schools (see my blog English in Dutch Education 1 on this subject).

In the meantime the Onderwijs2032 Act has been approved by Parliament with a focus on change in curriculum design, but as explicitly mentioned not on a change in teaching methodology! In other words, only the curriculum needs changing and not the quality of teaching or teaching methodology? This is not what I hear from teachers who are in desperate need of more support in teaching English effectively from an early age and with large groups of children / students. But hopefully I misunderstood and this is not what was meant. Let’s assume it was just a political correct statement, trying not to offend the teaching professional or teaching colleges? Anyway, English is one of the first 6 subject areas it will focus on, so I am not complaining:).

The next conference in April was the Consortium voor Innovatie (CvI) Management Conference, this year in the magical environment of De Efteling because of its 25th Anniversary. It was great for me to see former colleagues and to catch up!

De Efteling, a great venue to meet.

I attended some of the general sessions at this Leadership Conference and a discussion group about professional development (topics were often technology related). However what was really missing in my opinion was the topic of International Education and language development, i.e. English and my topic of interest.  Whilst MBO Schools I know have made this one of their strategic goals, teach several international programmes, and include
international internships as a work experience for their students. And often have trouble finding qualified English teachers. Strange that nobody seemed to have submitted this as a topic of discussion.

I also learned a totally new word and concept, called ‘Practoraten’. It is a wordplay on lectoraten (lecturers) in Higher Education. As I understand it, it involves doing research and sharing innovation between MBO Schools. The word refers to the focus on practical skills and the close relationship of the MBO sector with (smaller) businesses where many students will find work after their studies. Here is a link to a website, explaining the concept in Dutch: http://www.practoraten.nl/

I am still looking for the right place, time and / or conference to hear more about the, at times heated discussion about yes / no having international programmes, taught in English at universities. Any tips are welcome, and so are your thoughts and comments on the topic of English teaching in Dutch education at all levels!

Tomorrow evening I will be meeting with some teachers who have an interest in the Cambridge training CELT-S (Certificate English Teaching-Secondary) and I am looking forward to hear from them what their needs are.


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