The topic of using more appropriate terms for education seems to shift towards bigger social dilemmas. The inequality in ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ education might be rooted in more than its terminology, some employees think. “A change in language is never sufficient to equalise the difference in social status between different types of education”, says employee Marlon.

The preferred terms

Student Senad writes that using the words ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ links to a hierarchical positionality between different educations.  “It is good to use terminology other than ‘higher’ and ‘lower’.” Marlon agrees. “A change in our language use is never a bad thing, especially if our current language use of ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ is based on nothing”. A policy officer expressed their irritation with using words like ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ stating: “Now it means ‘better’ and ‘worse’.”

However, Oscar, a student, finds the change in words to ‘practical ‘and ‘theoretical’ ‘superficial’.  He compares it to a similar case: “it’s like in the US – changing the name from homeless to houseless to solve the problem.” He states that changing the used terms will just make the existing inequality in education  ‘weird to talk about’.

Similarly, Benthe, an HBO student, thinks that the new terms are inaccurately representing the Dutch educational system. With regards to the use of ‘theoretical’ and ‘practical’ she says: “There is a grain of truth in it somewhere, but one cannot happen without the other (theory and practice) and I miss that in the new classification.”

“Why is this not a problem in sports, but intellectually it is?”, says student Thom who approaches the issue from a different perspective. “Would we change the name of the Premier League because the 6th division/basement division does not feel comfortable with it?”

The root of the problem

Student Erik points out that inequality of education begins in primary schools. “Highly educated people send their children to expensive tutoring to get into pre-university education”, he writes. Marlon speaks about the difference in ‘financial support’ and ‘the facilities that different types of students receive’ should also be considered when talking about education.

The education stigma

“To think that changing the terms would solve the stigma would be very simple. To solve this, society must gain more appreciation for ‘practical’ professions”, notes student Thom. It seems that the having a ‘lower’ or ‘higher’ education does carry a certain stigma that is brought about even in the day-to-day conversations. A policy officer notes a recent chat with technical MBO acquaintances. “They asked what I did, and I said that I had studied at university, and I was told that was very good and that they had not made it.”

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Breaking social barriers

When it comes to challenging the social barriers in education Marlon says: “Let us not complacently pat ourselves on the back after [abolishing the terms ‘higher’ and ‘lower’] and stop striving for good and equal treatment for all students.”

The policy officer adds that rather than looking at the value of the label, he finds importance in finding ‘what suits you’. About his own education he says: “I would have been completely out of place at MBO.”

Regarding education, Thom shares his piece of wisdom. “Accepting that you are what you are, and accepting the same from others without looking down on it helps.”