Large scale innovations in education have often failed to produce the expected results. At the request of Parliament, the Education Council has made a number of recommendations on how existing education practice can gradually be improved. To gradually and systematically improve education, it is important that education practice and education research work closely together. Yet this cooperation does not happen by itself. Schools often have their hands full with their day-to-day business when education improvements are implemented, and they often have little interest in sharing their experiences with other schools and researchers. In turn, the results produced by researchers often have little immediate relevance for day-to-day practice, and there is little in the way of incentives to conduct research in partnership with schools.
The Education Council advocates the strengthening of the ties between education research and practice by establishing networks of schools, research universities, universities of applied sciences and education developers under the umbrella of a University Education Network (UEN), along similar lines to the University Medical Centres. In these network structures, schools would work together with researchers, professors and teacher training programmes to develop expertise aimed at improving education. By bringing schools, researchers and developers together within the University Education Networks, education research and practice would literally be linked together. UENs could be established to consider the issues and challenges that groups of schools face. The scale of the network within a UEC must be sufficient to allow high quality scientific research. Furthermore, teachers would have to develop an affinity with research by following master’s programmes, and it is also recommended that some teachers specialise in practice-based research into education.
To encourage schools and researchers to work together, the Education Council advocates greater coordination of the various forms of education research. The Education Council sees an important role in this for a governing body along the lines of what was recently proposed in the National Plan for the Future of Education Sciences (Nationaal Plan Toekomst Onderwijswetenschappen). This governing body would be responsible for combining and distributing the resources available to education research. The education community, education researchers and government would be represented within the body to ensure improved alignment of the agendas for fundamental research, practical research and policy research and improved alignment of research and practice. In the opinion of the Education Council, only UECs should qualify for subsidies for practical research.
In due course, all schools should systematically be working towards improving education, and government should provide schools with the freedom to do so. At the same time, the government should also take a critical look at the effectiveness of its own education policy. Apart from developing evidence-based education policy, this also means that policy should be implemented in a way that facilitates its proper evaluation.