There is a growing shortage of teachers, and they are being asked to do more and more: education must be tailor-made and personal, the ++Administrative burdenRead this article by Dennis about the causes of the increasing bureaucracy in education (in Dutch). is increasing, and teachers must deal with the problems of an increasingly diverse society. At the same time, a powerful movement for change and empowerment is arising in education. Teachers with good ideas are speaking out. Pupils and students are also no longer willing to be passengers on a “conveyor belt”: they want to influence the education they receive.
These developments do not make teachers’ lives easy. It comes as no surprise that the number of burn-outs among teachers is high. Too few new students are signing up for PABO (Dutch primary teacher training)++StrikeThis is one of the reasons why PO in actie, the Dutch trade union for primary school teachers, has called on teachers to strike. And good teachers are ++Leaving educationRead Willemijn’s interview with ex-teacher Jos Hummelen about why he decided to leave education (in Dutch)., to make a new start in another sector or because they are completely fed up of working so hard for so little recognition, appreciation and career prospects.
Change isn’t easy
Despite frantic efforts at innovation, a number of aspects of education prove resistant to change. For example, there is still a school building with classes, where groups of pupils spend five days a week listening to a teacher in front of the class, and the testing system still largely determines the structure of the educational process. In addition, “the wheel is constantly being reinvented” in schools (or school management). Schools have or take too little time to learn from one another, to work together and to forge new connections, and make too little use of new knowledge, or ideas and knowledge from society at large.Schools have or take too little time to learn from one another, to work together and to forge new connections, and make too little use of new knowledge, or ideas and knowledge from society at large.
And as a society, we are still unable to provide equal educational opportunities. For example, children of parents with a low socioeconomic status still have fewer opportunities in education, and subsequently in society. Schools and teachers feel as if they have to deal with these problems alone, and that they “can never get it right”. This stands in the way of effective solutions to the challenges faced by education.
There have been a number of positive interventions, such as higher salaries for teachers, but these are not sufficient to resolve the shortage of teachers and to make the education sector a place where people want to work, where they can grow and develop. The pressing problems faced by the education sector today require new ways of providing and organising education++Innovation is neededRead why educational innovation is needed in Willemijn’s opinion piece (in Dutch).
How we develop innovative education for a better society
We forge new, learning connections within education
On their own little islands, teachers are developing innovative lessons for pupils. School leaders are forging ahead with innovative visions for education. But far too little attention is paid to all the other little islands, while there is so much to be learned from one another. Our ambition is to bring an end to this fragmentation.Our ambition is to bring an end to fragmentation. We bring teachers and schools together, even if they are from different sectors or regions.
We build new, learning connections between education and the community
It’s not just teachers and schools who can learn from one another: parents, community organisations and business can also contribute to education++Our New SchoolAn example of a project in which we involved the community with education. This challenge was used to collect ideas for a new school or educational innovation from the broader community. Everyone with a passion for education in Amsterdam could take part. Read more The world beyond the four walls of the school has an inexhaustible source of knowledge and social capital at its disposal.The world beyond the four walls of the school has an inexhaustible source of knowledge and social capital at its disposal. It’s not about innovation for innovation’s sake, but about creating added value for both education and the community.
We work to develop innovative leadership in education
To remain relevant and up-to-date, the education sector requires innovative leadership by all those involved: teachers, school leaders, boards and pupils. This is because innovation requires initiative, courage, perseverance and the ability to forge new (and unusual) connections. The existence of these leadership qualities and skills cannot be taken for granted: they must be developed. By doing so, we can increase the capacity of the education system to innovate and connect in the most sustainable way: by those most closely involved.We can increase the capacity of the education system to innovate and connect in the most sustainable way: by those most closely involved.
We create more space and attention for experiment
During the past twelve years, our education projects have taught us that the most interesting ideas can be found on the rough edges of the system (and beyond). By encouraging the systematic development of those ideas, and creating space for (small-scale) practical experiments with them, we can foster sustainable innovation. We focus on investigating the most radical, bottom-up ideas, rather than simply optimising the existing system.
We transform practical insights into policy
We bring together the “living environment” on the work floor and the “system environment” of policy-makers++The systemThis includes staff of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Education Inspectorate, local government officials, education councils and school boards. As such, we see all our projects as research, in which we show how our experiments and interventions contribute to larger, systematic improvements. These may be amendments to restrictive legislation and regulations, but also cultural changes that create space and time for educational innovation on a more permanent basis++Teachers’ Development FundThe Teachers’ Development Fund is a great example of this. The fund not only allows teachers – so far more than a thousand – to improve their education, but has also led to a change in the perception of the education profession: the teacher as maker and inventor of education, rather than simply a provider.
Do you recognise this story, and do you see opportunities that we can work with? Then please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.