Is There a European Approach of Service-Learning in Higher Education?
Higher Education Framework in Netherlands
In the Netherlands, in general, the government sets higher education in two ways. It pays an amount (flat rate) per student that differs between studies. The fee covers more or less the time needed to lecture, which means that additional money for research needs to be found or teaching needs to be made efficient. But the government does not influence the curriculum directly. It uses accreditation bodies to check for consistency between curriculum and learning objectives. Learning objectives are negotiated with the government to get financial support. Also, the government can try to force schools to merge. In the Netherlands, there are no real private for-profit universities. The majority of universities in the Netherlands are public and supported by the government.
Educational tradition in the Netherlands, generally spoken, has to do with equity. There is no selection allowed for bachelors. Having a high school degree is sufficient. For the Masters, the selection is allowed but is almost totally based upon grades and curriculum. Pedagogy in schools that have a clear connection to professions usually have internships, but except for the University of Maastricht, there is no much attention for problem-based teaching.
The relationships between civil society, as the “third sector” of the society, could influence Service-Learning. Dutch education, also at the university level, is rooted in civil society, due to the corporatist pillar structure. But these roots, except for two universities, really have lost their meanings. Universities try to be as inclusive as possible, but in reality, they are very local leading, on a bachelor level. Only a few are truly diverse.
Service-Learning has much to do with government-higher education regulations, pedagogy traditions, relations between civil society – higher education institutions, and volunteerism traditions. Answers to these questions could be national or European.
Lucas Meijs (Professor of Volunteering, Civil Society and Businesses and Professor of Strategic Philanthropy, Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University Rotterdam)