Yesterday the new schoolyear started.
1.1 million students could go to 3600 schools in Flanders, but many of those schools do have problems to give those pupils a nice environment to study. In many schools too many pupils have to be packed together in a small room, because there is no money to build new classes and because there are not enough teachers.
Many schools are still lucky they can place some container classes, which are not any more comparible to those of a few decades ago. Yet it is incredible that some schools are already waiting for twenty years to get the money to enlarge their school or to make it orderly. More than 2,600 schools are waiting for grants to begin building or renovating. All together they ask 2.6 billion.
Flemish Minister of education Pascal Smet, of the Socialist Party (SP A) has also many plans to reform the education system and promisses that this year they will seriously come to the conclusion of the long preparationwork. Already for years the teachers were confronted many times with many ideas. The minister would also like to see a reorganisation of years one and two of secondary school, for students aged roughly 12 to 14. The current system of choosing a learning stream – general academic studies, technical, career-oriented and, to a lesser extent, artistic studies – would be replaced by a single educational plan for all students. This would give youngsters the possibility to get to know the different study subjects and professions better.
The aim of the change, says Smet, is to allow students more experience before they make a choice of study track. At present, some experts argue, too many children are pushed too early into the wrong academic stream. If all students from 12 to 14 were to follow the same stream, Smet argues, their real aptitudes could better be determined.
Critics, including the N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) , accuse Smet of wanting to level out the whole education system, which would be against the interests of both the best students and the less academically inclined. Smet disagreed, stating: “I want to make the strong students stronger and the weaker students stronger, too.”
“I have nothing against political discussion,” Peeters told VRT radio, “but it should take place within the Flemish government, not on the street.” Reactions on both sides, he said, have “spread unrest needlessly.” The government’s original agreement from 2009 holds that a proposal for the reform of education, including the proposal currently under discussion, should be ready and agreed by all coalition parties by 2014.
Money to build new schools
Smet announced last week that the region will build 200 new schools between now and 2016, as part of a public-private investment initiative called Schools for Tomorrow.
A public-private partnership will provide €1.5 billion for new primary and secondary schools
The project was described by Smet as a “catch-up operation” due to school infrastructure in Flanders ageing rapidly: three out of five buildings are more than 40 years old. This is “the first time ever,” he said that “so many schools will be built in such a short period of time. Schools that are sustainable, wellbuilt and suitable for the needs of today.”
Cooperation with private sector
The agency for education infrastructure and the Flemish investment agency on the public side, and BNP Paribas Fortis Bank and Fortis Real Estate on the private side joined hands to cooperate for a public-private initiative. The private partners will pay for the design, construction and maintenance of the schools for a period of 30 years, during which they will charge the education authorities a fee. Ownership of the buildings eventually reverts to the school authorities at the end of 30 years.
“Since its installation in 2009, the Flemish government has considered itself an investment government,” commented minister-president Kris Peeters at the launch. “With this PPI arrangement, we are doing more than just creating a real public investment for the benefit of the construction sector and the rest of the economy, we are delivering a major social contribution. Good education requires infrastructure that helps stimulate classroom performance.”
Schools for Tomorrow in figures
66 teams of architects
200 new schools
625,000 square metres of buildings
€1.5 billion total investment
- Flemish majority fears additional budgetary efforts (expatica.com)
National Bank governor Luc Coene made two gloomy predictions in mid-August: firstly he maintained that the Belgian economy would sink into a recession for the first time since 2009 and secondly he said that Dexia Bank would have to resort to a capital increase in the short term if market conditions remained sluggish.
“At the moment it looks as if his team has to generate an additional 80 million euros to balance the budget next year,” says Van Rompuy. Coaltion partner N-VA will put similar questions.
- Education reform sparks much debate (flanderstoday.eu)
Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters has called for a discussion of education reform proposals to move from the public sphere into the confines of the government to avoid the issue becoming a political football in the run-up to the local elections in October.
- School programme increases driving exam success (flanderstoday.eu)
Six out of 10 young people who learn driving theory at secondary school pass their driving exam the first time, according to the Flemish traffic science foundation VSV. Before the start of the programme Rijbewijs op school (Driving Licence at School) in 2008, only 48% of learners in the age-group passed on the first attempt.
- Decree forges integration of higher education (expatica.com)
The integration of college and polytechnical higher education, like the training for industrial engineers, in the universities is the ultimate goal of a process rooted in the Bologna declaration of 1999 about the reform of European higher education. It was decided to transform the longer higher education training courses made up of two cycles into an academic Bachelor’s or Master’s qualification throughout Europe. Flanders chose to integrate college training into university training at the start of the 2013-2014 academic year.
- Private schools seek gov’t funds to help see them through K to 12 (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
Expecting losses in the billions of pesos once the Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K to 12) program is fully implemented, private colleges want more government funding to subsidize the schooling of incoming senior high school students in private schools.
The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) said it wanted to tie up with the Department of Education (DepEd) so that students in the new senior high school
curriculum—or Grades 11 and 12—could attend classes in private colleges.
“Instead of the DepEd trying to build more schools and since the Catholic schools and many private schools (will be) losing their students, why don’t they just bring students from the public schools to occupy the seats in the private schools?” said CEAP president Fr. Gregg Bañaga in an interview.
“Why don’t they use our buildings and facilities and our teachers? In that way it’s a win-win situation,” added Bañaga, the president of Adamson University.
The CEAP is the country’s biggest organization of Catholic schools with 1,345 members.
- Roald Smeets foreign language skills (roaldsmetseducation.wordpress.com)
Euro Commissioner for Education Andrea Vassiliou presented the first comparative study on the language proficiency among young European yesterday after first and second foreign languages competence tests were conducted in 13 countries. Young Flemish pupils are introduced to their first foreign language, French, from a much younger age than in other countries. Most other European countries are exposed to English as their first foreign language. This early introduction to their first foreign language has led to the testing of Flemish youths at a younger age than their European counterparts, among whom they score an average when it comes to first language proficiency.
- Peeters demands more say on Europe (flanderstoday.eu)
Flanders should have more say in negotiations at a European level whenever its interests are being discussed, according to minister-president Kris Peeters, in his annual address marking Flanders Day on 11 July. At present, a Flemish minister often takes part in discussions in the EU’s council of ministers, when the subject under discussion – for example environment, education, culture or fisheries – is a matter of regional responsibility. Joke Schauvliege, for instance, chaired the meetings of environment ministers during the Belgian presidency of the EU.
- How language change sneaks in (eurekalert.org)
Comparing the development of another English downtoner, far from (as in far from perfect), to its Dutch equivalent, verre van, it is found that, even though they started out quite similar, the two downtoners went on to develop differently due to differences in the overall structure of English and Dutch. Importantly, this is one way in which even small changes may reinforce and gradually increase existing differences between languages.
- Flemish government signs Youth Pact 2020 with young stakeholders (expatica.com)
A number of youths met with Flemish Minister-president Kris Peeters CD&V and Flemish Minister of Youth Pascal Smet SP.A yesterday to sign the Youth Pact 2020. The pact, which was initiated by Smet late in March this year, gave young people the opportunity to air their views on a range of subjects, including issues such as the promotion of a broader-based education that prepares them for life instead of higher education, the promotion and subtle encouragement of healthy eating habits, safer cycle routes and a place where they can go with their problems.