Learning delays: why is the Dutch Education Union so concerned?

By Marije de Boer

When I heard that the Dutch Education Union was worried about the learning delay primary school students are going to have because of the corona virus, millions of questions popped into my head. The Dutch Education Union announced that they decided that if schools don’t open up again soon, they want to shorten the summer holidays, just so students get a chance to properly ‘catch up’ before the next school year starts. Does nobody else see this as a problem?

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty certain the whole world is delayed right now because of the virus. You could say that students have more free time right now, but are we forgetting that we’re in a pandemic? Does it really count as ‘vacation time’ if they’re not allowed to hang out with friends, go on holidays or fun trips and do other things outside of their homes? They are also going through so many changes right now, which might be taking a toll on their mental health. A pandemic is scary, confusing and above all not a usual situation, so why do we expect them to learn as if we’re still in a normal situation?

On top of that, my mom, a teacher at a primary school here in the Netherlands, is overwhelmed by work. She had to learn how to teach online in a matter of days, calls all her students almost every day to check if everything is okay at home, she feels helpless because she can’t help everyone, and still she’s expected to have a shorter summer break because otherwise her students will be behind. Do we really think that’s fair? Making them work twice as hard right now and shortening their summer break?

Another solution the Dutch Education Union found is making the schooldays longer after the summer break. Days from 8:00 till 16:00, or 9:00 till 17:00. I wonder if they’re fully aware of the situation the Dutch education is in. As far as I know, there’s a huge shortage of teachers already. Above that, is it possible that students stay concentrated for 8 hours straight, or will it be counterproductively and make them even less concentrated – thus making them learn less?

Of course, if this goes on for a longer period of time, the delays might become a problem. The longer this is going to take, the bigger the delay is going to be. But is the situation we’re in right now, online classes for a couple of months, really that bad when you compare it to a lifetime? I don’t think so.

So, Dutch Education Union, don’t you think students and teachers are going through enough trouble right now? Don’t you care about their mental health as well? Give them some space to breathe. The possible delays are a problem for later.