An education system with inbuilt resilience

In a rapidly changing society, the demands made of the education system also change. Increasing individualisation, automation, innovation and internationalisation place high demands on the citizens of tomorrow and on their education now. The pressure on the education system is also increasing. Although changes are made to the system, only discrete parts are addressed. Since the publication of the Dijsselbloem Committee's report into educational renewal, policy makers and politicians are cautious about talking about the system as a whole, despite the fact that this conversation is essential. How can the education system continue to adapt to changing demands from society? This is the question addressed by the Education Council in this advisory report.

The Education Council does not opt for (large-scale) systemic changes based on the concept of a 'best system' design. What is best is largely unknown. Of more practical value is to improve the inbuilt resilience of the system - the ability of the system to adapt. Greater resilience requires more variety in the education system. Social changes do not occur universally in the same manner or at the same pace. Schools need the space to be alert and to respond to local educational needs, as they need to be able to adapt programmes and learning pathways and make innovations. A greater variety of schools helps the system's capacity to gradually adapt (without any great risk) to the changing demands from society.

Schools already have the space in which to innovate, but could utilise this better. The government should also offer more scope for this. Yet this alone is not enough: More is needed to create an education system with inbuilt resilience. For instance, innovative initiatives are needed at the interchanges between educational sectors and columns, because these change points hamper talent development. The weak links in the system are: early selection of pupils at the transition from primary education to secondary education, a stronger distinction between vocational education and general formative education, and fragmentation of pre-initial and post-initial facilities. It is exactly in these areas where the government should be more active in encouraging alternatives. It is also the government's task to safeguard the boundaries of innovation: all schools must offer a good standard of education and all pupils must be offered opportunities.

Recommendation 1: actively encourage focused, innovative initiatives
The government must raise awareness of innovation opportunities and broaden the scope of legislation and regulations. The Education Council also recommends a more focused encouragement of cross-sector and cross-column initiatives. This relates to: forming heterogeneous groups at the transition from primary to secondary education, establishing programmes that combine general formative education and vocational education, and organising educational facilities for young children and for adults across the boundaries of the education system.

Recommendation 2: establish robust benchmarks
At the same time as encouraging variety, the government must also ensure that the system incorporates benchmarks to ensure a balance is struck between innovation and maintaining quality. The government must monitor the value of diplomas, but also the professional standards of educational practitioners and the availability of sufficient public funding.