Education in the NetherlandsThe Netherlands has one of the top education systems in the world. In Pearson’s 2014 global report on education, the Netherlands ranked number eight. There are a few reasons why the Dutch have an education system that enriches their youth, and countries could learn from the Netherlands to improve their own systems.

  1. Schools in the Netherlands give homework sparingly. In the U.S., elementary students are given more than the recommended amount of homework, which is time-consuming. Research has shown that play and exercise are vital to children’s growth and school performance. Dutch students under the age of 10 receive very little, if any, homework, which gives them time for daily exercise.
  2. Education in the Netherlands is fairly affordable. It is free for primary and secondary schools; parents need to pay for annual tuition only after their child reaches 16 years of age, and low-income families can apply for grants and loans. For university students, the average cost of tuition is about USD$2000 per year; in the U.S. it is close to $10,000.
  3. There are different types of classes Dutch students can take for secondary school before college. Students can take HAVO (senior general secondary education) or VWO (pre-university education) before they go to college. They can also take VMBO (preparatory secondary vocational education) if they do not want to attend college right away. This system allows students to work with a program that will accommodate their needs.
  4. Education in the Netherlands involves learning a second language. While American students usually start learning a second language in middle school or high school, some primary schools in the Netherlands teach English as early as Group 1, which is the equivalent of American kindergarten. All Dutch students learn English, but some schools require students to learn an additional language. There are even bilingual schools for every education level, where some classes are taught in English and others are taught in Dutch.
  5. The Dutch school week is different from an American school week. A school day in primary school usually takes place from 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. on weekdays, but students go home for lunch instead of eating at a school cafeteria. On Wednesdays, schools dismiss students around noon.

The Netherlands puts its youth first when it comes to education. Young people demonstrably succeed in math and sciences while having a low unemployment rate. This, along with much more successes, places education in the Netherlands at the top compared to other countries. Other countries could learn from the Netherlands in how they put education first for their youth.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Netherlands Using Technology to Fight Hunger in Developing Countries
Smallholders are small-scale farmers with less than two hectares (2.471 acres) of farmland. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO), “smallholders provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asian and sub-Saharan Africa.” Therefore, providing smallholders with new technologies that will enable them to increase their production and productivity, will, in turn, help fight hunger in their country.

Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) is a program that focuses on using satellite data to improve food security in developing countries. It is executed by the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) and is commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are encouraging organizations to partner with smallholders and use technology to fight hunger, with the goal of tackling food shortages in developing countries.

G4AW aims to provide smallholders with geodata, improved and affordable mobile connectivity, and satellites to provide agricultural advice. Geodata is computerized geographical data, and it can be used to provide smallholders with information on climate, weather and hazards. Improved and affordable mobile connectivity enables businesses to obtain information from smallholders that otherwise would have been nearly impossible to reach.

G4AW has so far initiated 17 projects involving 80 organizations throughout 10 different countries. The organizations involved include banks, insurance companies, satellite data companies, as well as governmental and nongovernmental organizations. One of the projects, Geodata for Innovative Agricultural Credit Insurance Schemes (GIACIS), targets smallholders in East Africa, and offers them “a basic safety net to protect them against weather-related perils.” Another organization called CommonSense targets smallholders in East Africa, and provides them with “information, such as weather forecasts, to help them make more informed decisions on farming activities.”

Netherlands’ Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Lilianne Ploumen, has made an extra 20 million euros available for the G4AW program. At the recent Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Minister Ploumen encouraged businesses, saying, “The great thing is that companies really don’t have to do this out of the goodness of their hearts: there’s also a very attractive business case.” G4AW hopes this newest innovation is just the start of using technology to fight hunger.

Kristin Westad

Photo: Flickr