Ongoing improvements and innovation in education are very important in order to guarantee the high quality education on an ongoing basis. Systematic improvement of education relies on cooperation between schools, teachers, researches and education developers. In recent years, the Education Council has made various recommendations on this topic.
The Education Council believes that a better utilisation of the currently available knowledge (evidence-based approach) can contribute to the quality of education. To achieve this will require researchers to provide access to the available knowledge, but will also require teachers to be more research-oriented. They should want to be informed about the latest developments and implement these in their teaching.
Cooperation between the various parties is a necessity for a properly functioning knowledge chain. The government could play its part in sharing the available knowledge by creating a broadly accessible database of education research findings for those conducting new research. Teachers, developers and researchers will then be able to exchange their knowledge and experience in knowledge communities. Schools could give excellent teachers a pioneering role in this (Towards more evidence-based education, 2006; Steering innovative educational practices, 2007; Ontwikkeling en ondersteuning van onderwijs (Development and support of education), 2010; Excellent teachers as inspiring examples, 2011; and Create scope for gradual improvement, 2011).
Although much is already known about effective education, there are also many gaps. Testing new innovations when the effects are not fully known in advance may therefore also contribute to the quality of education, providing it is done correctly. The Education Council believes that this requires a phased approach in which innovations are first tested on a small scale, adjusted as necessary, and then gradually scaled up. In this way, new evidence can be obtained by learning from variation and comparison and, where possible, by using (quasi-)experimental research. Other schools could then use this new knowledge in their own specific context and further add to it. This will allow the body of knowledge on effective educational methods and instruments to be gradually expanded (Towards more evidence-based education, 2006; Naar doelmatiger onderwijs (Towards more effective education), 2010; Create scope for gradual improvement, 2011).
Cooperation between schools, developers and researchers does not happen by itself. The Education Council therefore calls for a targeted use of resources to provide these parties with a stimulus to work together. The Education Council advocates the bundling and coordination of resources for educational research. Cooperation should, for example, be a condition for the award of subsidies for practical research. The Education Council proposes the establishment of networks of schools, developers and researchers in university education networks (UENs). Educational research should be coordinated by a governing body (currently being established), following the example of ZonMW, the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, in the healthcare sector (Create scope for gradual improvement, 2011). With regard to the budget for education development and research, the Education Council proposes a gradual move towards an investment level of 1.7% of the research and development budget, which is comparable with other sectors (Ontwikkeling en ondersteuning van onderwijs (Development and support of education), 2010; Create scope for gradual improvement; 2011).
The Education Council has previously concluded that there is poor matching between the educational support structure, on the one hand, and the medium-term (supra-institutional) education agenda and research, on the other. In this context, the Education Council has called on education support actors to base their work on the outcomes of scientific research and also to be accountable to schools for their work. The Education Council finds it remarkable, for instance, that educational support actors played an important role in the introduction and implementation of (large-scale) educational innovation, but were not involved in the academic debate on it. The Education Council also called for a level playfield in the education support market, with no place for certain providers to be given a privileged position (Ontwikkeling en ondersteuning van onderwijs (Development and support of education), 2010).
The Education Council believes that the state should give schools the freedom to work on improving the quality of education. Schools that meet the basic standards of quality and have a functional system of quality assurance should be given the freedom to experiment with certain educational objectives of their own choosing (Veelzeggende instrumenten van onderwijsbeleid (Significant education policy instruments), 2007; Create scope for gradual improvement, 2011).