Below you can read more about the views and vision of LAKS on various topics such as: School climate, School career, Inclusive education, Education quality, Customized diplomas, Participation, Vmbo, Tests & Exams, LAKS monitor, Pupil welfare, Inequality, Mergers, International, Digitalization, and Practical education.
Everyone should feel comfortable and safe at school. This should be so regardless of a student’s grade level, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomic background or age. The 2022 LAKS Monitor shows that 18 percent of students are not positive about the safety they experience at school. This is obviously not good enough. LAKS is therefore also working hard to change this.
We see that, despite various measures in schools, students still get bullied and feel unsafe. The LAKS Monitor 2022 shows that 34 percent of students, at the time of taking the survey, experienced at least one form of bullying behavior in the past three months. Therefore, we are working with educational organizations to find structural solutions to these troubling issues surrounding student well-being. LAKS also believes that students should have more say in their own safety at school and that safety should be much better monitored.
LGBTQ+ students in particular suffer from an unsafe school climate. They are bullied more often and experience discrimination at school more often than other students. This concerns LAKS and therefore conducted research on this issue last year. This research indicates that, among other things, these students often know too little about the rules around bullying at their school. LAKS will advocate that students be better informed by the school about the anti-bullying policy and that students themselves be allowed to help determine how bullying is handled within the school. In addition, we would like to see more open discussion in the classroom about sensitive topics such as bullying and discrimination.
Every year LAKS works with LOB (Career Development and Guidance) and progression. The LAKS Monitor 2022 shows that 46 percent of students are not positive about the help from school in choosing a further study or work. This, of course, we think is too much. The LAKS stands up for an LOB system in which the student is central instead of the countless questionnaires to be filled out on the Internet. The LAKS therefore believes that LOB should first and foremost focus on getting to know yourself very well. For this, it is important that LOB continues throughout your school career. No separate assignments and/or lessons, but integrated into education.
The LAKS believes that every school should properly inform students about their obligations around progression. For example, the fact that vmbo students know in time that they must take an extra (seventh) subject so that they can later move on to havo without problems. LAKS also advocates a better position for students in the transition from elementary school to secondary school. And then from secondary school to further education!
Everyone has a right to education, that goes without saying. Only, for students with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses, this is not always the reality at present. Education for this group currently often leaves much to be desired. In the Netherlands we currently have ‘passend onderwijs’. Unfortunately, this does not work well (in its current form). The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities instructs the Netherlands to move to an inclusive society and with it an inclusive education system. A system that does not, as with ‘passend onderwijs’, form around the student but is inclusive and accessible so that everyone can participate. LAKS therefore supports this system change and will fight for it. However, there are a number of preconditions such as room for customization and sufficient (space for) teachers. In the coming period, LAKS will fight for the rapid implementation of inclusive education.
What will help is the introduction of educatation rights instead of compulsory education as mentioned in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. With the right for education, the responsibility to provide a good education lies with the school and the system rather than with the student to come to school (compulsory education). In fact, this does not work for students who cannot attend school now but want to.
Every student has the right to the best education. Whether a student needs extra support or not. Unfortunately, students who need extra support are more likely to experience education not working as well for them. For example, the LAKS Monitor 2022 shows that 24 percent of students are negative about the resources and adjustments at school for their support needs. We find this worrisome and have long been committed to making education appropriate for all.
The ‘Passend onderwijs’ Act provides an opportunity to tailor education to the needs of students who need additional support. Unfortunately, this still happens too little in practice. Therefore, there needs to be structural discussion with students instead of about them. LAKS has been fighting for this for years. The Ministry has now promised to legally entrench the right to be heard (the right to be heard during the preparation of the developmental perspective).
Furthermore, LAKS believes that students do not receive sufficient knowledge about and support within passend onderwijs. Information and support centers must therefore improve the position of students.
The quality of education is under pressure. For example, the Education Inspection states that students’ basic skills are below par. These need to improve. According to LAKS, an important step is to also increase the enjoyment of these skills. Thus, LAKS calls attention to promoting the pleasure of reading among young people. In order not to let the quality of education fall too far, LAKS also believes it is important to have good teachers in the classroom. LAKS therefore advocates better strategies to solve the teacher shortage, such as adjustments to teacher training.
LAKS also believes it is important for students to be heard! Students should be able to easily raise problems at school. If a student really cannot work things out with the school, he or she should be able to go to another authority. We therefore stand up for an accessible Education Inspection, which also pays attention to your individual complaint.
Every student has the right to an education that meets their own needs. This is a core value of the LAKS. Customization plays a key role in this. LAKS is therefore very supportive of customization. Customization can ensure that students are sufficiently challenged and can also develop more broadly.
In the coming period, the LAKS will study the demand for customized diplomas among students. In fact, customized diplomas could be a great solution for students who excel or are worse in a particular subject. In addition, LAKS will enter into discussions with students and further education institutions about how they envision customized diplomas.
Shared determination is the basis for good student participation in schools. It is legally regulated that the person concerned, the student, has the right to participate in decisions. The LAKS Monitor 2022 shows that only 35 percent of students are positive about what school does with students’ opinions and ideas. We strive to ensure that students have a say according to their needs. The results of the LAKS monitor indicate that many steps still need to be taken to achieve this. LAKS is committed to taking these steps.
Students who sit on the participation council (MR) or student council may feel that they do not really have much influence or can change things, which LAKS regrets. LAKS supports its members in their roles as student council or participation council members with training sessions. We also think it is important that students in the participation council can enrich themselves in knowledge about how they function. That is why LAKS sees a task for itself to make the rights of the student council and the participation council clearly findable on the LAKS site. In addition, LAKS has an active lobby, to get the student council in the law. This gives students at all schools, the chance to voice their opinions.
A specific subject on which the MR may decide is the Program of Examination and Completion (PTA) at schools. Various investigations, for example by the Inspection, show that far from all PTAs meet the requirements. As a result, there is a risk of errors, which penalize students and, in the worst case, jeopardize their diplomas. The LAKS wants that if schools are given the freedom to design part of the exam themselves, there should also be proper checks on whether they take their responsibility and follow the rules.
The majority of Dutch students are educated at vmbo. Despite the fact that this is a large proportion of all pupils, we notice that there are a number of issues that deserve the attention of the LAKS.
For example, that vmbo students face a lot of prejudice and that vmbo education is still seen as less by some (students, parents and also wider in society). But even within its own association, LAKS notices a lack of vmbo students. In recent years, LAKS has already made strides in addressing the above issues and we will continue this course in the coming years.
Vmbo students are desperately needed in our society and for this reason, in part, LAKS will work to advocate for a more positive and better position for these students. LAKS is committed to addressing the image problem of vmbo and wants to ensure more positive attention for vmbo.
To even better represent all the different students in the Netherlands, we also want to involve more vmbo students in LAKS. To best represent the interests of vmbo students as well, LAKS will actively engage vmbo students in its own activities such as the pizza panels and the vmbo pizza panels.
Furthermore, it is important to monitor how vmbo education is going. For example, vmbo students now have the opportunity to follow a continuous learning route with the mbo. This creates more opportunities for development, which the LAKS considers positive. In addition, there is a pilot on the New Learning Pathway where the mixed and theoretical learning paths will be merged from 2024. The LAKS is therefore monitoring what the students themselves think about this and is fighting for the interests of vmbo students in the final design of the New Curriculum.
Tests & exams
The current test culture can be summed up in the phrase “sweat, learn, forget. Students learn the material shortly beforehand, take a test, and forget the material again after the test. Instead of a learning tool, tests have become a tool for ticking boxes. Because of this test culture, the LAKS sees that the motivation of students drops. A pass on the test has become more important than understanding the material.
This test culture is a worrying phenomenon that LAKS would like to see improved. The LAKS 2020-2021 Board has published a report on this phenomenon after a period of research.
The LAKS remains committed to improving the current test culture and working towards a system in which the focus is not on the grade on the report card, but on the student.
Since this year, the LAKS monitor has been available to secondary schools on an annual basis. The LAKS Monitor is a satisfaction survey. In 2022, more than 51,000 students completed this survey. Besides questions about general education and regular school subjects, this monitor also offers a lot of attention to other important aspects of education, such as teachers, ICT use, atmosphere and safety at your school!
When the completed data has been processed and the results are known, every student council of the schools participating in our monitor can view the data of their own school via https://resultaten.laks-monitor.nl/. With these results, student councils can identify areas for improvement at their schools and make plans to address them. With this information, student councils can enter into dialogue with their school.
In the 2022 LAKS Monitor, 50 percent of students reported experiencing stress due to school. Shocking numbers, but unfortunately we at LAKS are not surprised about this. Also recently, the HBSC survey on mental wellbeing came out, showing that girls in particular suffer from performance pressure.
The factor that puts the most pressure on students is the pressure to perform. Research conducted by LAKS shows that there is a strong link between mental well-being and performance pressure. This is due to a combination of pressure for learning for the test, pressure from the grade, pressure from parents, pressure from 24/7 education and pressure from friends and classmates.
LAKS is now working with the Ministry of Education, Culture & Science and several other parties to jointly map out how to reduce this pressure to perform in secondary education. Moreover, school should be a place to learn, not just to perform. We are much more than that one grade!
LAKS notes that there are deep-seated problems in the Dutch school system that promote opportunity inequality, which is why LAKS wants to take big steps to remedy these problems. Opportunity inequality may be a new topic to many, but at LAKS we have been working on it for some time. In the past, for example, we drafted an opportunity inequality manifesto.
Looking at bottlenecks exposed by the corona crisis, we believe it is necessary to take big steps to improve opportunity equality in education. Key themes are “segregation in education” and “interventions to reduce opportunity inequality”.
Categorical schools – where only one grade level is taught – stand in the way of students meeting each other. But even in schools where all levels are represented, it still happens too often that vmbo students only meet other vmbo students, and havo students only with havo students and vwo students only with vwo students. It would be better for student development if students encountered each other much more and thus could learn from each other.
The corona crisis exposed many problems. The government came up with the National Education Program, allowing different schools to work on different interventions. However, this National Education Program is temporary. We hope that the lessons learned from the program will be carried forward and that effective interventions can continue.
Finally, we think it is important that students are informed about what opportunity inequality is. After all, only when you know what it is can you do something about it. This coming year we will revive the ‘Opportunities Tour’ and visit schools to start the conversation about opportunity inequality.
Shrinkage of the amount of students is a latent but increasingly obvious problem in the Netherlands. Looking at areas where there will be up to more than a quarter fewer students in a twelve-year time frame (counting from the year 2018,) it is clear that schools will have to merge to ensure their existence.
For students, mergers often have major consequences. Travel time to school may become much longer, the culture at two merging schools may be so different that education becomes difficult to follow, and the form of education may be different as well. These kinds of issues worry LAKS.
That’s why we think this should be discussed with students as early as possible. Especially also in places that are not known as shrinkage regions. There are great examples in the Netherlands of schools working together instead of competing to destroy each other. To help students and administrators understand what is involved in shrinkage, mergers, or other forms of regional cooperation, LAKS, together with the VO-raad, has written the guide “Pupil Decline for Students and Administrators”. There is also a podcast on LAKScast with the findings of a virtual tour of schools that have had to deal with shrinkage, so that other students can get inspiration to get it right at their school.
Several years ago board members traveled to the BES Islands to improve contact there. In recent years the contact has diminished somewhat. LAKS believes that there is still much to be gained in contact with schools on the BES Islands to better represent the students there as well. Therefore, we will intensify our contact with schools on the BES islands in the coming period. In addition, LAKS will find out how and whether it can realize needs of the pupils on the BES islands around student participation, among other things.
There are similar organizations to LAKS in many European countries. LAKS therefore finds it useful to explore whether more European cooperation can be developed. The purpose of such cooperation would be to exchange information: How do associations in other countries develop? How do other countries deal with problems that we also experience in Dutch education? And what can we, as LAKS, learn from that?
In recent years, cooperation has developed between the LAKS and the Vlaamse Scholierenkoepel (the VSK). Although the VSK functions differently from the LAKS in many ways, many of LAKS’s goals are shared by the VSK and it is therefore good for both organizations to improve the joint bond. One way this is done is by organizing exchanges. Indeed, discussing certain topics can lead to interesting new insights, and thus the LAKS learns from the VSK, and the VSK from the LAKS.
Digitalization within education has gained momentum since the corona crisis. Schools (even after the corona crisis) are increasingly using digital learning tools within their education since they have seen the benefits of this. Accelerated digitalization has also brought a lot to some students. LAKS remains committed to working with students to see what needs there are when it comes to digitalization. LAKS conducted research on this in 2021. It remains important that students have access to digital learning tools. Therefore, we think it is important that everyone has access to these resources. This can be done by adding ICT to the law ‘free school books’.
There is an increasing demand from schoolchildren to cover digital skills at school. To ensure that this is reflected in the new curriculum, LAKS will enter into dialogue with students in the coming year to see how this can best be realized.
LAKS is also there for students in practical education. Students in practical education, as the name suggests, learn from practice. They learn how to participate in society. LAKS noticed that the need for representation for practical education students is growing.
We have recently started discussions with students in practical education. One of the things that came out of these discussions was that students sometimes feel less heard, seen and appreciated than their peers in vmbo/havo/vwo. LAKS believes it is important that every student is treated equally and that students in practical education are also listened to. These students also deserve a voice and LAKS is committed to making it heard.
Some concrete starting points that LAKS has received from pupils in practical education are: getting rid of the inferior image of practical education, having the opportunity to learn a foreign language at school, taking the Cito test in group eight, and a festive moment to finish high school like all other pupils in the Netherlands. So this is about emancipating practical education pupils with all other pupils in the Netherlands in at least three of the four starting points.