Universities and colleges want more physical education

Meeting each other in person, engaging in discussion and feeling that you belong. According to Geert ten Dam, chairman of the board of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), this is essential for students in higher education. But with the current corona rules, physical education is largely impossible.

This is why she is urgently calling on the Cabinet to have the Outbreak Management Team, the main corona advisors, investigate whether physical education is no longer possible within the security limits. The university association VSNU and the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences support her call.

70-90 percent digital

Secondary school students are taught in class again, but in higher education the 1.5-metre rule still applies. As a result, educational institutions have a much smaller proportion of their buildings available. It is currently estimated that 70 to 90% of higher education is digital.

According to Ten Dam, this is a disaster. “Everyone is working hard to organise it as well as possible, but higher education cannot do without meeting each other”

“Couldnt the number of students in a workgroup, under certain conditions, be increased to 30, as is the case with high school students? She makes a very urgent appeal to the OMT to see where there is still room.

Most colleges and universities try to give priority to first-year students for lessons in the buildings. But that does not work everywhere.

Maxime van Laar is a first-year business administration student at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) and has not yet had any physical lessons this new academic year. “Most of my life now takes place in my bedroom. Its as if I havent really started studying. I dont know anyone from my studies yet and its very difficult to get to know each other through the image”

The VU says that because of the corona measures, 7500 students can still come to the university every day. Priority is given to education that is difficult to provide online. In the popular Business Administration programme, a large proportion of the lessons are held online.

Study drop-out

In addition to being chairman of the UvA, Geert ten Dam is also a professor of education and is concerned about a possible increase in drop-out rates. “We know from research that the strongest predictor of early study leaving is a lack of social and academic integration. And then its about: do you feel part of the student group? Do you belong? Do you connect with the students and the lecturers? Do you dare to ask questions? According to Ten Dam, you dont regulate these kinds of things online.

In June, the Education Council wrote in an advice to the Cabinet that “the social side of the school and university is also important for effective education” According to the council, the pedagogical link between teacher and student and contact with fellow students is crucial.

Fear and gloom

Distance learning also leads to some students motivation problems and psychological complaints. In an April survey, about half of the students reported complaints such as gloominess, loneliness and anxiety. Forty percent of the students said that studying at home does not go well for them. Students who live alone suffered most from anxiety and loneliness, and they worry more.

Student of Language and Culture Studies Mirjam lives alone and suffered from mental complaints last year when she had to follow her entire study at Utrecht University online. “I started to feel lonelier and things were actually getting worse. Eventually I got an increase in anxiety complaints and a degree of gloominess that I never experienced before”

The Ministry of Educations response is to share its concerns about academic failure and the well-being of students and to understand the call. However, a spokesperson also points to the increasing infections among young people and therefore the need to continue to monitor the current measures. “As soon as there are signs that more could be done, we will, of course, immediately request a new opinion from the OMT. We too want to be able to organise physical education again as soon as possible”