Politics and education: reflecting on the elections


The general elections of 2021 are behind us. What role did education play this time? In this column, Aukje de Ruijterof the Dutch National Student Association(ISO) and Eline Terpstra of the Dutch Student Union (LSVb) reflect on the elections, education, and student representation.

“There is one positive development in this year’s elections: many more young people voted compared to four years ago. Chances are that the COVID-19-crisis has played a role in this. More people are aware of what is going on in The Hague. It affects people, and therefore students, more personally. And not entirely unimportant: there were more young people on the electoral list, so many probably felt better represented.

Still, we saw in party manifestos that the attention paid to students was limited. That’s why I (Aukje) am very curious: how much will be in the coalition agreement about higher education and students this time? Past coalition agreements sometimes contained a single sentence about students, and that has to change. This is a great challenge for the LSVb and ISO. For example, by showing which themes are important to students. Those themes are broad: from the basic grant to student welfare.

Talking about basic grants, I (Eline) wonder: What will happen to the student loan system? And what will the possible compensation scheme for current students look like? Political parties differ in their views, some parties don’t even have an idea about this altogether. My (Aukje) big question is, and of ISO as well: Will such a investment in students scheme affect the quality of education? We don’t want this negatively affect each other. Ultimately, we hope for more money for higher education in general, both for students and education.

The key message I’d (Eline) like to give is about the social insecurity and deteriorating financial position of students, which has only become more apparent since the pandemic. A structural change in the income position of students is needed to create long-term perspective. It’s also important to focus on the growing inequality of opportunity in education. In this respect, I (Aukje) think we should take the positive developments of last year – the COVID-19 year – with us for the next four years. For example certain forms of digital education, such as knowledge clips, podcasts and one-on-one couselling of lecturers. Just as we must continue to invest in the quality of education, as the pandemic shows how important education is.”

Photo by Element5 Digital via Unsplash

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