Higher education and senior secondary vocational education must take place in person again as soon as possible. This is what the student unions JOB, ISO and LSVb, the Netherlands Association of Senior Secondary Vocational Schools, the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands Association for Psychiatry, the National Youth Council and the Universities of the Netherlands are calling for. In a letter to the Outbreak Management Team, the organisations argue that educational institutions must be able to welcome all students back on campus as soon as possible. This is crucial to the quality of education and students’ well-being.
For 22 months now, over 1.3 million students in senior secondary vocational education (MBO), higher professional education (HBO) and university education (WO) have been attending a large part of their courses from a computer screen. Many classes can continue to be held online, but education is about much more than transferring knowledge. Daily contact between students and with lecturers is crucial to the quality of education and students’ well-being. When the educational institutions reopened after the first lockdown, it became clear yet again how much students and lecturers had missed this interaction. As the new Minister of Education, Culture and Science Robbert Dijkgraaf also pointed out: students represent one of the most vulnerable groups that are in a highly formative phase. We should no longer put that formative phase on hold.
Studies by Statistics Netherlands and by the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment and Trimbos show that many students are suffering from psychological issues. These problems range from loneliness and depression to total apathy. Young adults in particular are deteriorating the most when it comes to their mental health. The Netherlands Association for Psychiatry has therefore also issued a letter today calling for the opening of senior secondary vocational schools, universities of applied sciences and research universities. In addition to affecting students, the ever-changing coronavirus measures have led to ongoing uncertainty amongst staff at educational institutions regarding how teaching activities can safely take place. That is a source of stress and it increases workloads, which are already very high.
Despite the rising infection rate, all this calls for the opening of the education sector. We wholeheartedly support the new Minister of Education, Culture and Science’s plea to open the remaining educational institutions as soon as possible.