Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dutch educator talks about differences in approaches to higher education

Dutch exchange professor Sanne van Uden, who has been visiting Germanna Community College, is a Drama and Social Skills instructor for ROC deLeijgraaf in the province of Noord Brabant. ROC deLeijgraaf is one of 40 or 50 regional training centers for higher vocational education in the Netherlands, called Hoger Beroepsonderwijs or HBO.

ROC deLeijgraaf has its own restaurants, hotel and Work Plaza, where students receive practical training.

van Uden said Dutch students usually end up with either certification for a trade or a university diploma. “Of course we have dropouts. But there are only a few.”

All students in college from age 16 to 24 are eligible for a government grant, but typically also need to take out loans, van Uden said. The government requires that if a student misses 16 hours of class time, he or she be assigned a coach or mentor, she said.

“It’s very interesting to see how the schooling system works here,” van Uden said.

“Many [GCC students] have jobs as well as going to college, and they are motivated. They are very friendly and very eager to learn.”

She said facilities and technology at Germanna are “very new, very modern.”

One major difference is that Germanna provides all students a second chance to excel, transfer to a university and reach their full potential.

In the Netherlands, she said, students are put on either a university track or a vocational track at age 12. “Of course, the child is followed for eight years. They have a good knowledge of how good the child is.”
Germanna faculty member Shelly Palomino, who’s been hosting van Uden, said she has toured Germanna, the University of Virginia and the University of Mary Washington, meeting faculty and talking with students. She also will visit Washington and New York.

van Uden said another difference is that teachers who went to university themselves rarely teach at the vocational level. She is an exception, with a master’s degree in education.

“One of the things Sann made me realize,” Palomino said, “is that despite the fact Germanna might be considered a stepping stone, we have great talent [among the faculty] at a community college--very motivated and interested and passionate, people who have had books published and accomplished great things. You look at [some faculty members’] credentials and think they should be teaching at UVa. But you talk to [them] and they have the passion” for making a difference at the community college level.

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