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NWO celebrates… the International Day of Education

In 2019, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 January as the International Day of Education. In this way, the UN seeks to realise inclusive and equitable education to create opportunities and possibilities for all, encourage gender equality and combat global poverty. Education is also an important topic within NWO. The Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO) is the NWO unit that focuses on this the most. For example, NRO funds educational research and facilitates the connection between research, practice and policy. Bart ten Bosch is a policy officer at NRO in the practice-oriented educational research team and talks about the importance of proper education during an interview.

Bart, where did your affinity with education and educational research originate?

‘I was a primary school teacher for many years, although that was not my original plan. I was doing a different study, and through an internship, I entered primary education by chance. For most of the time, I worked at schools with a large population of vulnerable pupils in neighbourhoods where the opportunities were not always equally allocated. As I grew up in such a neighbourhood myself, this was not particularly new for me. Unfortunately, from my own background, I was all too familiar with stories about the effects of inequality of opportunities. Therefore I am really grateful that things worked out so well for me thanks, in part, to my parents.

After several years of teaching and fulfilling various roles within the school, I increasingly often found myself asking the question as to why we did things in the way we did at school and whether that was the most appropriate way for our pupils. In my view, the school policy was not well-substantiated and often based on personal visions, and that bothered me. Over the years, that question led me to increasingly focus on educational policy and educational research. For example, I carried out studies for the school board I worked under, and I contributed to projects of the Dutch Inspectorate of Education under the theme partnerships for appropriate education.’

‘Sadly, I have seen first-hand in education how decisive a child’s family can be, as can the neighbourhood it grows up in, in a negative sense.’

NRO therefore seems to be a logical next step. How did you find your way here, and what do you do within NRO?

‘I have to say that if you are active in the educational world and, in particular, at the boundary of research and education, you quickly get noticed by NRO. Amongst other things, this resulted in me becoming a member of the NRO Teachers Guidance Committee. And the converse was also true: NRO was also often a part of the work I did. For example, my former school board submitted a proposal to the “Kennisrotonde” and we were sent reports from the Netherlands Cohort Study on Education (NCO). Then, a few years ago, I saw a vacancy at NRO, applied for it, and now I work here.
NRO can be divided into various teams, and I fall under the team ‘practice-oriented education research’. In general, we ensure that research proposals tie in well with educational practice. We also try to connect educational professionals with researchers and to encourage co-creation. For example, I am involved in the R&D programme Educational opportunities. This programme focuses on increasing knowledge to effectively tackle educational disadvantages.
Another such project is the Knowledge Table Effective Reading Education, where researchers and educational professionals can discuss the most urgent knowledge questions in that area.’

You stated earlier that you worked as a teacher for a long time, and you also spoke about inequalities of opportunity and educational disadvantages. What is your view on these?

‘Sadly, I have seen first-hand in education how decisive a child’s family can be, as can the neighbourhood it grows up in, in a negative sense. I don’t just mean the cognitive learning performance but also the provision of care and support. The educational level of parents and language barriers also play an important role in this regard.

The causes of inequality of opportunities lie not just with families but also with the education system itself. For example, we can see that the shortage of teachers is particularly damaging in schools with educational disadvantages. In addition, teachers’ expectations can influence the advice pupils receive about which level of secondary education they should follow. As far as I am concerned, equal opportunities is about enabling pupils to fully realise their potential. Would pupils perform better than they do in the current situation if the circumstances were more favourable? In the case of children with lower-educated parents, it is up to the school to try to compensate for what the pupils miss at home or do not receive enough of, and that is no easy task.

Within NRO, we have the programme committee Educational disadvantages and Inequality of opportunities that considers this theme. This programme committee is responsible for setting out the research and also works on the various knowledge products that are developed to help schools work on this challenge.’

‘I think that inclusive education is about providing an appropriate place for every child and accepting the differences between children.’

What do the words “Inclusive and equal education” conjure up in your mind?

‘I think that inclusive education is about providing an appropriate place for every child and accepting the differences between children. I think an appropriate place can be both in mainstream and special education, as long as that place best meets the needs of the child.

Especially in a strange time like this, I want to emphasise how much respect I have for researchers, education professionals and pupils. For example, in the current context, it can be difficult to carry out good research that obtains proper results from educational practice. I therefore think that both education and science have demonstrated a remarkable level of resilience.’

Would you like to read more about equality of opportunities in education?

Read the article ‘On an equal footing: promoting equal opportunities’.

Text: Seray Ünsal



Diversity and inclusion at NWO and NWO-I

This new section will be published on both the NWO intranet Joost and the newsletter Inside NWO-I. This is an initiative from the NWO-D and NWO-I wide Diversity team. We aim to realise working in an inclusive organisation with inclusive procedures. We believe that we can achieve our strategic ambitions as NWO if we also seek to be a diverse organisation with an inclusive culture. Diversity brings us creativity, innovation, and renewal. In addition to this, we are convinced that we will have more societal impact as NWO if our organisation reflects the society we are part of. This means that as an employer, NWO needs to ensure that everybody is welcome, can be themselves and can perform at their best. This Diversity and Inclusion calendar contributes to that. You can read more about diversity and inclusion on the NWO website. And in the January edition of Inside NWO-I, we published the article “Striving for an organisation where everybody can be themselves” about diversity within NWO and NWO-I.

Section NWO celebrates … based on an annual calendar

We base the section “NWO celebrates…” on an annual calendar that we have produced ourselves. You can find our calendar here. An annual calendar does not necessarily have to start on 1 January. Various Roman emperors and several popes changed the dates making a year start on 1 March, or 25 March or perhaps 1 January? That set us thinking: which dates do we still take for granted, and how do others view that? Time for a calendar that includes all special days: days that we as NWO employees can celebrate together. We hope this calendar will help us to get to know each other better, increase our knowledge about other festive days, and give us opportunities to open up the conversation and discover which (festive) days are special for us and why.

See the calendar 'NWO celebrates' and read the other articles from the section 'NWO celebrates...'

Would you like to participate in this section?

Is your (festive) day missing from the calendar? Or would you like to say something in the section “NWO celebrates…” about one of the special days on this calendar? If that is the case, then please send an email to Nicole Verhoeven ( Then we will add your date to the calendar and contact you for a possible interview for this section.

Confidental Infomation