12 October 2017 •by Rosa Groen
Lecturers and students speak different languages. There is a gap between the two, both from a sociocultural perspective and in terms of educational level. Of course, this is logical. But how can we all close this gap?
Recently I have heard many lecturers complaining (myself included) about students who are rude in classes, who are cheeky and uninterested and do not show much respect. The complaints are mainly about first years, the majority of whom have come fresh from secondary school to ‘quickly get a qualification’. The principle of ‘lifelong learning’ completely eludes many of these students in this stage.
Nowadays in our society, if you don’t have a ‘qualification’, you do not count for much. We live in a “diploma democracy” and The Hague University of Applied Sciences has become a massive knowledge institution, together with many other institutions. As we read in one in the previous blogs, our university of applied sciences has doubled in size over the last twenty years.
It is unrealistic to assume that all of these students can also cope with this level. The urge to get a diploma also means that there are large groups of students who do not reach the final level. On the one hand, the final level is coming under pressure due to the wish to retain students and on the other hand there is a movement in the opposite direction, as the high educational level is sacrosanct. On average, there is a drop-out rateof twenty percent after three years. Some drop out quickly, others struggle on through their journey.
Now let’s return to lecturers’ complaints about students. These vary from “they have no idea about what’s in the newspapers” and “they just sit there like bags of sand”, to “they don’t even know how they should reproduce something” and “they can’t even ask a question in half-decent Dutch, let alone write a professional email”. There is a prevailing “us and them” culture.
Many lecturers teach groups of young people with whom they have difficulty identifying. Lecturers frequently have a university background, not counting some exceptions. They read a book because it is educational or fun and they keep up with the newspapers. This is something that lecturers do, but student do this far less. The distance between the two is great and these are things that people rarely talk about.
We can only close the gap by combating the “them and us” culture and working together more. We should not only work together as teams of lecturers, but particularly also with the students. It may sound pedantic or a bit woolly and alternative, but it is about imparting commitment and confidence.
Of course, students should also be stimulated more to become informed on matters that are not on the curriculum. For instance, take the idea from professor Jacco van Uden: the introduction of a literary reading list for the university of the applied sciences (fifteen novels per degree programme). Isn’t that great? A well-educated person reads books from time to time, knows their languages and follows the news. Surely this is something that lecturers can teach students?
Rosa Groen lectures on research skills, public management, external projects and globalisation on the Business Management Studies degree programme at the Faculty of Management & Organisation. Since 2015, she has also been working on her dissertation at Leiden University and she is a member of the International Peace, Justice & Security Research Group. The focus of her research is Western European cities and their policies aimed at attracting and retaining international organisations. Her life motto is ‘Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star’ (W. Clement Stone).