In January 2020, the new project Getting started with diversity and inclusion was launched. Schools, with the financial support of the education ministry, aim to deliver a set of innovative interventions to support diversity and inclusion in VET.
Dutch VET does not only train learners to master an occupation; it also prepares them to become active citizens. Citizenship education in VET duly pays attention to the acceptance of ethnic, religious, sexual and gender diversity. However, its effectiveness is very much doubted, as it is mainly talking about how (not) to behave. Time for action!
Innovation starts with discomfort
Ten VET schools, with the involvement of students, have joined forces to develop a set of effective interventions that go beyond the limits of traditional classroom settings. Schools agreed that it is impossible to promote tolerant and democratic attitudes through a set of formal classroom lessons; learning only becomes meaningful when it’s linked to learners’ personal life and practical experiences. VET schools offer practice-oriented settings that encourage learning-by-doing teaching approaches, while VET learners have diverse social and religious backgrounds. The question that the project aims to answer is how VET schools should benefit from these advantages when it comes to topics like diversity and inclusion.
Learning by doing
After a first round of brainstorming meetings, school representatives set the following priorities:
- clarifying the concepts of diversity and inclusion;
- designing interschool interventions and defining working methods to test them;
- providing pedagogical teacher training in diversity and inclusion issues;
- aligning schools’ policies and implementation initiatives and raising the commitment of their teaching staff.
What is striking is that VET schools cooperate in these four interrelated dimensions at the same time. Action is necessary in all priority areas; it is expected that progress in one will also positively affect the others. The project also aims to involve as many stakeholders as possible, with local pilots at the core of the initiative.
Researchers in a supporting role
The initiative is supported by a research programme aiming to assist the local pilot actions in designing learning-by-doing approaches, evaluating outcomes and carrying out interventions in daily school practice. Advice is also offered, for instance on how to design educational activities or organise preparatory sessions with mixed groups of learners and teachers.
The initiative has just started but the great interest of schools in participating shows that it is already fulfilling an existing need. It is widely felt that this is a very important issue and that it is up to VET schools to come up with solutions.
Pieter Baay (2019). Aan de slag met Diversiteit & Inclusie. De samenleving als het huis dat we samen bouwen [Getting started with Diversity & Inclusion. Society as the house we build together]. ‘s-Hertogenbosch: ecbo.