Thursday was a day packed with festivities for the Pedagogical Sciences programme. This was the day that the programme produced its first successful doctoral candidate as well as the first master students. Thirty master students received their diplomas on Thursday.

Despite the various Pedagogical Sciences programmes offered at other universities, Erasmus University decided to start its own programme. “There was a demand for a programme which focuses on big city issues,” says Wendy Tieman, programme director. “In a big city like Rotterdam, there are great differences in the socio-economic or ethnic backgrounds of its population. That affects how children are brought up and the education provided in schools. Our students therefore study subjects in which diversity plays a major role.”

In the first year, Pedagogical Sciences was the smallest programme at the university. Four years later, it is one of the biggest. In those four years, the students evaluated the programme as the best in the Netherlands, according to the Elsevier Keuzegids.

Why the success? “In the Rotterdam programme, skills education plays an important role, so that students are well prepared for professional practice”, says Tieman. “In national terms, Pedagogical Sciences may not really be a programme which offers the best career prospects. So we are delighted that many of our graduates have already found a job.” In planning the curriculum, we ensured that the programme was distinct from other programmes in the country. For example, the master specialisation in Education Sciences focuses on the big city issues mentioned above. Very prominent aspects of Orthopedagogical Sciences are the diagnosis and treatment of children, while students specialising in Family Pedagogy focus on themes like media education.”

Practical experience

I really enjoyed that link with practice, says Judith Vreugdenhil. She specialised in Family Pedagogy. “That attention for big city problems very much appealed to me. I find it really interesting and the focus was good. The practical experience provided is very valuable.”

That practical experience must not be underestimated, because the programme as a whole is very hard work, according to Mandy Duinkerken. She completed the Orthopedagogy specialisation. “The programme was a huge challenge. I feel that problem-based education offers real added value. It means you must always be well prepared, because otherwise you can’t work together with your fellow students. That was a massive stimulus for me.” She has only just got her diploma and is already working as an orthopedagogue.

Career prospects

It is not yet clear whether that link with practice will give Rotterdam pedagogues better opportunities on the job market in the long term. However, Duinkerken feels that it will certainly help, but advises students to supplement their CVs with additional activities. “Do voluntary work. I helped a child with a language deficiency for a year and I also worked as a holiday rep. That definitely helped me get a job faster.” Vreugdenhil agrees. “Voluntary work and jobs in health care give you lots of experience. But think hard about your internship. Do something you enjoy with an eye to the future. After my internship, I was able to stay on as an employee.”

Career is important, but Duinkerken wants to impart one word of wisdom to students. “Enjoy your student life. You may find your studies hard, but believe me, working life is even harder.”