Fourteen advisory councils of the government and parliament, including the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands, handed over an ‘inspiration bundle of articles‘ to the cabinet. By doing so, they want to inspire policy makers and show how they can cooperate more with young people. This is urgently needed, they write, because young people are very concerned about the future.
Bottlenecks in higher education are also mentioned. “Education, with its focus on grades, diplomas and achievements, has become a stressful place for young people. They have to run faster and faster to stay in the same position. That really has to change”, says the booklet.
Test culture and pressure to make choices
According to the councils, the existing ‘test culture’ does more harm than good. High grades are seen as very important, because many master’s degrees and employers use them as the basis for their selection. “The result is that students learn to get a high grade (read: memorise facts) and not to really understand the material.”
Young people are also said to suffer from the pressure they experience when choosing the right study. Certainly because switching courses can easily cost a student a few thousand euros extra in student debt.
The basic grant will return in 2023, but ‘that is not the end of the matter’, because young people still earn little, given ‘the excessive rent prices and the strong inflation’. As a result, the future salary will be increasingly central to choosing a course of study instead of a student’s intrinsic motivation, the advisory councils warn the cabinet.
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There’s also a lot inequality in opportunities. First-generation students (whose parents didn’t attend university), students with a non-Western migration background, with vocational education (mbo) or a functional impairment experience ‘obstacles in higher education or on the way to higher education’. They are more likely to experience study delays and to drop out.
The accessibility of education has deteriorated in recent years, the councils write, because the education budget has grown insufficiently in line with the increasing number of students. “As a result, many students do not receive the attention and guidance they need.”
According to the councils, it is of great importance that the concerns of young people are heard in The Hague. “Young people are resilient and willing to take responsibility, but then they want to be given that responsibility.”
In a response to the publication, vice-president Marinus Jongman of youth union FNV Young & United says that ‘despite all the promises of the cabinet’ there is still far too little happening for young people. “If this report doesn’t wake them up, then they just don’t want to do anything for young people.”