During the pandemic, online education had tremendous value, but, according to a majority of Dutch MPs, face-to-face teaching must remain the standard in the Netherlands. Students are often unsatisfied with the quality of online education: they miss the interaction with other students and have more trouble with loneliness and motivation.
These are the words set down in a motion (in Dutch) brought by the Dutch Socialist Party (SP) that was adopted by the House of Representatives in July. Institutions would only be allowed to offer online education “in highly exceptional cases and with the consent of students and lecturers”. That’s the way startled MPs responded to the plans of an MBO school in Rotterdam that wanted to maintain the switch to full online education even after the coronavirus crisis had passed. But will people obey the motion? It turned out there were other MBO institutions who had the same plan.
‘It is too early for specific long-term plans’
In her answer to Parliamentary questions from the SP, Minister of Education Ingrid van Engelshoven writes that “there is broad support for the principle of physical education” among institutions of higher education. But she is keeping her options open: “I attach a lot of value to the freedom of teaching teams to decide themselves how they want to deliver their classes.”
She did promise to ensure that distance education would not be offered “for the wrong reasons”, for example, as a cost saving measure. Before the summer, Parliament feared that some administrators might want to maintain online education permanently as a cost saving measure.
And then there are questions about vulnerable and ill students who actually benefit from distance learning. Will they be allowed to continue with online education? The Minister is leaving this decision up to the institutions. They have to “come up with fitting solutions that are tailor-made for their own situation, based on common sense and mutual respect”.
It’s still too early, according to Van Engelshoven, for specific long-term plans on how to deal with online and physical teaching. In addition, she is still awaiting an evaluation of the coronavirus measures and the use of online teaching in higher education. The results of the study are expected in the spring of 2022.
The Minister would have crossed swords with MPs about online education this week, but the debate was postponed.
HOP, Josefine van Enk