Science - January 22, 2004

Debate: Just how mediocre is Wageningen education?

Have standards really sunk in Wageningen? Did students work harder in the past? A selection of quotes:

Dr Klaas Frankena, Qualitative Veterinary Epidemiology Group:
“The level depends on the teacher. Last year I failed three-quarters of the students for one course. In the ten years before it was a consistent twenty-five percent that failed. This time there were a lot of students who had got their first degrees from other colleges (Hbo’ers). They are used to learning differently. I’m not saying they are stupid, but they do have more of an attitude of ‘teach me the trick and I’ll repeat it for you’. We are now paying more attention to this issue, but that doesn’t mean we are going to let standards fall or give away extra points. If I do that, I may as well leave.”

Dr Dick Kettenis, Applied Information Science Group:
“I’m trying to avoid saying things like ‘everything was better before’, but I do notice that the mentality among high-school leavers has changed, to one of being content with a lower grade. I am regularly surprised by students who complain that they have to work hard. In my time hard work was normal. Nowadays a course where you have to work forty hours for one study point is considered hard going. Do I sound old-fashioned enough? Students seem to have to do so much these days. They work more often, and seem to have to watch TV every day. As far as the international students go, it’s not only that their English is not up to scratch, but their background knowledge is less. I don’t think we should lower standards, but I notice I think about it more.”

Wiebe Aans, Studium Generale:
“Students used to have more time. It was easy to take three months to do a two-month course. That way you had more time for the content of the course, as well as reading around the subject. Now students have to get through everything faster, and after that they maybe go on to do a very specialized PhD. People specialize too quickly, and therefore miss out on the broader view.”

Guido van Hofwegen