Twelve science hubs that were specifically created for the purpose currently make it possible for primary school students to become more familiar with science and technology. These hubs are now fighting for their survival with a petition. To date, this petition has been signed by over three thousand people.
In Rotterdam, there is a special series of lessons for gifted primary school students in groups 6, 7 and 8. They come to Erasmus University Rotterdam, see the campus, attend a lecture and learn how a researcher asks questions. There are lessons about economics, psychology, philosophy, law and medicine.
In primary schools around Delft University of Technology, students are encouraged to design something themselves. A girl made an eyeglasses cleaner for her disabled uncle that he could actually use, for example.
The twelve science hubs link primary schools to primary education teacher training colleges and universities. Those who contribute to the work of the hubs praise the enthusiasm of the students and the positive effects of the science hubs. These hubs may soon be gone, however.
By means of a petition, supporters of the science hubs will ask the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for one and a half million euros a year. The universities have stated that they will make the same amount available. Such funding would make it possible to maintain the science hubs. In just a few days, the petition was signed by over three thousand people.
Exploration and design
The hubs were created in 2009 with the support of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and Platform Bèta Techniek, an organisation that focuses on the exact sciences in the context of fostering a knowledge-based economy. The idea was to fuel an interest in science and technology among young children. The children would learn through exploration and design. Special teaching programmes were developed. Hundreds of schools take part in these programmes.
The science hubs are in a twilight zone, however, in that they do not provide higher education and also do not provide mainstream primary education. The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) already assisted in 2012 by providing a once-only grant. The science hubs must now secure funding from another source or other sources.
Bert van der Zwaan, Rector Magnificus of Utrecht University and President of the Rectors’ Conference of Dutch universities, will submit the petition to Members of Parliament on Tuesday. It will then be a matter of waiting. The budget of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science must still be discussed in the Lower House. Funding for the science hubs may therefore be made available.