Skip to content

Thought Leader Thursday | Jan van de Ven about education: “Teachers must become architects again instead of implementers.”

In the interview series 'Thought Leader Thursday' we speak to an expert in the field of a specific issue every Thursday. While the corona crisis shook up the entire society, we are curious about what consequences this has had on issue management thought leadership. Our first guest is Jan van de Ven, chairman of PO in action and founder of the teachers' collective. We asked him about the state of education, one of the sectors that has been turned upside down the most during the crisis.

What were the expectations regarding your issue before the corona crisis started?

The three biggest issues that occurred within primary education before the crisis are the same issues that still require attention today. This concerns the teacher shortage, equality of opportunity and the quality of education.  In addition to putting these issues on the agenda, before the crisis I spent a lot of time starting up the teachers' collective. The most important goal of the teachers' collective is that from now on the conversation will be conducted with, rather than about, teachers. The crisis has ensured that the initial focus has shifted to craftsmanship. In the form of 30 tutorials teachers received training on distance learning, combining knowledge from educational science, educational advisors, teachers and school leaders.  

 All in all, before, during and after the crisis, I have been busy putting teachers in a position where they will have an important voice in the educational power field.” 

What happened to the issue during the crisis?

The issue of (in)equality of opportunity came to the fore even more clearly during the crisis because education was moved to the home situation. Factors such as guidance at home and the available resources, such as computers and WiFi, played a major role. This guidance does not only depend on the education level and Dutch language proficiency of the parents. Having a busy or crucial job, which sometimes leaves parents little time for homeschooling, can also have a negative impact on supporting children. So it has become clear that the problem is not within one subgroup, but is much broader than that. 

DThe crisis has also led to greater appreciation of teachers from a social perspective, which I think can be attributed, among other things, to the list of crucial professions that was presented. In my opinion, this list should be used much more often when making policy choices. 

 In general, there has also been more appreciation among parents who are at home with children. The majority of parents previously saw education mainly as a childcare function. The crisis has made parents and policy makers realize that education is much more than just care and that it is sometimes difficult to teach children something and keep them focused all day long. Something that teachers have always seen that way.” 

What is the current status of the issue?

“Because people have seen how important certain professional groups such as teachers, healthcare workers and supermarket workers are, the will to invest is absolutely there. In my opinion, there is support anyway. I don't think there is much room to convert the appreciation that exists from society into financial appreciation. The crisis has cost an enormous amount of money. 

 In addition to this social revaluation, I expect that we will also see a newfound appreciation for the public sector among many political parties. In the past, teachers, on the other hand, have been pushed to zero for years in times of crisis (e.g. in 2008 and 2015), which has generated enormous amounts of money. I don't think this is just a financial problem. The entire structure of the sector and the fact that teachers have allowed everything to happen for a long time have also ensured that the teacher is often the final point in all policy choices. Teachers need to stand up for themselves more, something that the teacher collective will focus on.” 

What are you going to do with the issue in the near future?

“The teachers' collective will try to get teachers' say higher on the agenda. However, organizing teachers on this theme is a difficult issue. When you try to unite teachers in terms of fair pay and less workload, they will follow you out of the room in a polonaise, but claiming more say is much more abstract and therefore a lot more difficult. This doesn't make it any less important. Teachers must become architects again instead of implementers. 

Various activities are planned. For example, the teachers' collective has come up with two courses to take control of the professionalization of teachers into their own hands. There is also a lot of demand from teachers for collegial professionalization.  In addition, it is very important for the issue agenda to pay attention to the election manifestos that many parties are currently drawing up. The chance of seeing an issue reflected in policy is much greater if it has already been formulated in the election manifestos.” 

More about crisis communication.

Need advice from our experts about your issue?    
Back To Top