Major teacher shortages looming

By Omid Azadi

The HAGUE – The shortage of teaching staff has become an increasingly problematic issue in secondary schools across the Netherlands in recent years, a report by state secretary Halbe Zijlstra has concluded.

Although a positive turn of tides was confirmed in 2010, the future looks gloom as tough times are looming due to an increase in student enrollment and obsolescence in society.

Research conducted by the state on overall employment in the education sector concludes that a shortage of 4000 high schools teachers is expected in the coming years.

In the previous school year, there were approximately 950 vacant posts in high schools, down from 1070 the year before.

This decrease can be attributed to the economic recession, which has increased the appeal of employment in education as well as certain measures taken by the state to improve the situation of teachers.

However, in coming years, the labor markets and the secondary education system in particular will experience some dire times.

The state has estimated severe shortages by the year 2017 due to obsolescence, as many educators will retire when they will become eligible for their pension.

“We are on the right track, however, there is a lot that needs to be done to minimize the expected shortages and supply sufficient and highly educated teachers.” Zijlstra said.

The severity of the shortages is most prevalent in larger cities. Week against Loneliness kicks off Thursday

By Marlene Werner

AMSTERDAM – The second edition of the nationwide Week against Loneliness gets underway Thursday, Sept. 22.

About 30% of the Dutch population suffers from loneliness, research has shown.

“It is not a disgrace to be lonely,” said Prof. Dr. Jenny Gierveld of the VU University Amsterdam, an expert on loneliness. “Almost everyone is in his or her way lonely from time to time. If lonely people realize that, it may already be a little step in the alleviation of loneliness.”

‘Coalitie Erbij’, a national collaboration of thirty social organizations, hosts the event.

Festivities begin with a symposium on loneliness among the youths.

Experts on loneliness-research will then present their findings.

Toward the end, a collective panel discussion will explore the promises of ICT to improve the youth’s situation.

Participation is free of charge.

The focal point of this year’s edition is the prevention of loneliness and the strengthening of one’s direct circle of friends.

Related educational activities are guided by three aims: nurture your relationships, establish your friend-network, and invest in it, throughout your lifetime.

“Nowadays we, ourselves, are seen as responsible for our own happiness and giving meaning to our lives. Situations in which we experience loneliness are readily interpreted as personal failure in the current public eye,” said Malou Saat, director of ‘Sensoor’, a Utrecht-based public helpline.

“Loneliness is not a sign of personal failure, it can happen to everyone,” Saat said.

“In order to tackle loneliness, it is mandatory to help people suffering from loneliness. They should be included in organizations which offer relationship-services and host activities,” Prof. Gierveld said.

One such activity will take place on Saturday, Sept. 24, in connection with the Week against Loneliness and the national Neighbor-Day (‘Burendag’).

Nationwide, citizens are invited to eat together and thereby build collectively the “longest dining table in history.” Everyone is welcome to join.

Nationwide, citizens are invited to eat together and thereby build collectively the “longest dining table in history.” Everyone is welcome to join.

Curtains Close on 9/11 Show

By Hallie Engel

AMSTERDAM: The final performance of the Boom Chicago comedy show “9/11 Forever” will take place Sunday at the comedy troupe’s Leidseplein theater.

Starring Michael Orton-Tolliver, Gregory Shapiro and Jon Rosenfeld, the
show combines improvisation, stand up and sketch comedy commenting on
the world after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Orton-Tolliver said he was “proud of the show, but disappointed that we
could not get more people here to see it.”

Ticket sales were high for several of the show’s 15 performances, compared to a paltry 35 or so attendees in the 230 person theater.

“When people think of 9/11, they think of mourning and respect, not
necessarily comedy,” Tolliver said, “but we need to laugh at some of the
things that have happened.”

The show limits its humor to subjects like increased airport security, politicians and the stereotyping of Muslims and refrains from jokes directly concerning death and tragedy.

Critical reviews of the show have been positive though, with the Het
saying it has helped earn Boom Chicago “a special place in Dutch
theater. “9/11 Forever” closes with a final performance Sunday.

Dutch student reps still unsatisfied with cuts

By Marlene Werner

NIJMEGEN – Leading Dutch student associations LSVb and ISO are still unsatisfied with the cost-cutting amendments in higher education.

“There is still a lot to do,” said Pascal Ten Have, new chairman of the Dutch student-organization LSVb in an interview published by the Radboud University.

Current dissatisfaction focuses mainly on the ‘langstudeerdersboete’, a fine that applies to students, studying longer than the statutory duration dictates. Additional changes are also planned, all of which will become effective by next year.

But the government is not averse to compromise.

“Statutory-fee-less boardwork (bestuurswerk) does seem to be possible,” announced VVD-representative Anne Wil-Lucas Wednesday morning on Twitter.

As a result, the ‘langstudeerdersboete’ might not apply to students who study longer due to full-time boardwork.

State Secretary of higher education Halbe Zijlstra emphasized his opposition to the idea.

“The proposal concerning statutory-fee-less boardwork is feasible if certain conditions are met, but considering the marginal notes, I am not an advocate,” Zijlstra said

“Zijlstra is putting himself on thin ice,” Ten Have said. “We are still not at peace with the ‘langstudeerdersboete’. It is all about top-students and excellence, while the average student is being forgotten.”

“In any case, there is not yet an end in sight,” LSVb and ISO’s chairmen said.

Student representatives are angry with Zijlstra’s endorsement for a plan allowing universities to decide how much to charge for premaster-tracks.

“Pure meanness,” ISO-chairman Sebastiaan Hameleers said. “Premasters are simply milk cows(?) for universities now,” Ten Have added.

Ten Have believes that the coming months will see repeated dissatisfaction and possibly protests on the side of students.

“Students are not inactive and if it comes to the crunch, they will make themselves be heard.”

Next spring the government will decide upon the abolishment of master-scholarships and the restriction of free-public transport to students who adhere to the regular study-duration.

It remains to be seen how students will accompany the decision processes.

Minister of education planning to award Michelin stars to top schools

By Christiaan Frankin

AMSTERDAM – Dutch education minister Maria van Bijsterveldt has revealed plans to award stars to the top elementary and secondary schools.

Van Bijsterveldt laid out her plans in a Sept. 9  interview with Dutch business daily Het Financieel Dagblad.

Though no definitive plans have been finalized, it appears as though a system comparable to that of the renowned Michelin guide will be used.

The system was proposed in response to the current classification of schools, which only includes the categories of ‘very weak’, ‘weak’, and ‘satisfactory’, resulting in a lack of an incentive for schools to strive beyond such levels.

One of the main motivations for this plan is to increase the ease with which underperforming teachers can be removed from their position.

“Those who aren’t motivated, should be reprimanded,” Maria van Bijsterveldt was quoted as saying.

Responses from education unions have been mixed so far.

Although both organizations agree with the need for improved human resources in the education system, details of the proposed ‘Michelin stars’ system are still debated.

New study: Television dumbs down your children

By Anneclaire van Not

AMSTERDAM – Excessive television exposure in the family home is harmful to a child’s educational success, concludes Natascha Notten in her doctoral dissertation presented Tuesday.

Based on data from the family-based questionnaire for the families in the Netherlands and the Program for International Students Assessment (PISA), she researched the long-term effects of media on the upbringing of children.

Educational results of children, whose parents often watch lowbrow or entertainment programs, are significantly lower, her research _ conducted at Radboud University Nijmegen _ claimed.

This conclusion explains the role model relationship between parents and children.

Setting an example of excessive television viewing conflicts with the norms and values a child gets taught in school.

This conflict shows why some children may be ill-equipped for a successful career in higher education.

Moreover, excessive television viewing of the parents also affects parent-child reading interaction, which in turn influences a child’s educational achievements.

The less time parents spend promoting reading and discussing books to their children, the less cultural competencies get fostered and the less the good school performance will be stimulated, the stud further concluded.

Notten said one television set was enough for each household.

“This even has a positive effect on your child in the long run, because it enhances their knowledge about the world, but this effect already diminishes with two televisions,” she said.

Adding more televisions to your household “turns the positive effect into a negative one,” she warned.

Longest Recorded Poem takes center stage at ‘Week of Alphabetization’

By Marlene Werner

AMSTERDAM- The seventh edition of the ‘Week of Alphabetization’ ended Saturday with the longest ever poem recorded in Dutch history hogging the limelight.

Several hundred people digitally wrote 3655 lines starting September 5.

The campaign was hosted by the Foundation for Reading & Writing, an initiative headed by Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands.

Several other campaigns, which tackle illiteracy in the Netherlands, are organized throughout the year.

Organizers hope to reach out to 1.5 million Dutch people who are ‘functionally illiterate’.

The ‘Week of Alphabetization’ is held annually around International Literacy Day, Sept. 8.

It was proclaimed such by UNESCO in 1965.

Current estimations set the number of illiterate adults at 793 million worldwide.

This estimate doesn’t include the vast amount of children, who are not able to attend schools and miss out on an, UNESCO- defined, basic human right.

New statistics: Elderly are helpless

By Anneclaire van Not

AMSTERDAM – Even though the number of Dutch nursery students is on a notable increase, the elderly are still left helpless according to new statistics released by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research.

A large part of the elderly homes and hospitals are struggling  with a staff shortage.

Most of the graduating nursery students, of which 90-95% are female,
do not want to work in geriatrics, said  Caroline van Mierlo, director of the Institute for
Nursery Studies.

Female nursery students strive for a career in childcare, while  their male counterparts are more interested in working in an ambulance or a trauma helicopter, Van Mierlo said.

For male nurses, taking care of the elderly does not fit in heroic view on being a nurse, she said.

In order to improve this situation, Van Mierlo reckons that the view of student nurses on the nursery subset needs to change, and working in geriatrics must be made more attractive for upcoming nurses

Categories: Education, Home

Forged Experimental Data: More misery for suspended professor

By Marlene Werner

TILBURG – Not the kind of news Diederik Stapel, the suspended Dean of the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioural Sciences would have liked.

A colleague and fellow professor has called the reputed Cognitive Social Psychology expert “a disgrace” in her first comments since Stapel got his probation order on allegations of academic fraud.

“It is a disgrace of mega-proportion”, said Prof Roos Vonk from Radboud University of Nijmegen. “I have to assume that the ‘meat-data’ are also forged.”

Vonk published a personal account of the case on her website, after accusations of forgery were reported by the University of Tilburg earlier this week ahead of Stapel’s suspension.

The two professors jointly conducted a study, which investigated personality differences of meat-eaters and vegetarians.

The results of the study linked to the alleged forgery were presented earlier this year.

She remembered being suspicious about Stapel’s conduct during the experimental period, when he refused to reveal his assistant’s name, but reassured herself because of his outstanding reputation.

“It is shocking and shows that also psychologists can be mistaken about people.”

The University’s Executive Board said Stapel’s undertakings were “a serious breach of scientific integrity.”

An investigation has been launched to examine which of Prof. Stapel’s publications were falsified.

Results should be announced by the end of October.

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