Many of the issues involved in social and professional discussions on youth and education require an interdisciplinary approach. But why and how does this approach work?
In education, upbringing and youth care there are a number of different interests to consider. These interests, of the children, their parents, the groups to which they belong (e.g. religious or ethnic minorities), and the interests of society are often difficult to define and they can often be at odds with each other.
Educational professionals need to have the competences to analyse and discuss moral, legal and policy-related issues. Some of them need to be extra-proficient in this area in order to be able to advise other professionals, managers, policy makers, politicians, and governments. The Ethics of Education Master's course provides the right learning environment to enable you to develop this extra expertise. You will acquire the relevant competences and learn to apply these in the professional contexts of research, policy making and consultancy.
In the Master track Ethics of Education you learn to analyse moral issues and discussions in order to design policies and procedures and to take decisions. Three examples:
I had this thing lurking in the back of my mind: We are creating something real here. Will our research work out? It felt like a very responsible task.
Independently from one another, three students applied for the same internship. They found it on the list supplied to students of the master's track Ethics of Education. The goal of the internship, which is a joint project of UNICEF and The Hague University of Applied Sciences, is to design and deliver a toolbox to assess the best interest of the child as laid down in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Annapoorna and Milena share how they experienced this internship. For Annapoorna Ananda Kumar (27, India) this project immediately seemed a perfect fit. She did a bachelor’s in law, and she desires to do something that connects law and education in some way. Milena Lauer (24, Germany) has a pedagogical background and some practical experience in that field. Although it was not what she planned, she decided to make use of the opportunity to try out research.
Only at the first meeting as a team in February, the students realized that they were not joining an existing team in a set research project. The three students were in that team. The project has four phases, and they were in phase one: start-up, research, analysis and putting the elements together. The end product will be a web-based toolbox for all contexts, not just for a specific group of children, but for basically everyone that has to make decisions for children. A toolbox that considers how to weigh different interests and focuses on ethical and moral models.
Attending a conference session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child really kicked off the project. The Netherlands was one of the five countries that presented its reports. The interns joined the proceedings online for two days. They found it very inspiring to see on the inside how this branch of the UN works. Afterwards, they spoke with a UNICEF representative who sent them the Dutch report. Some 14 weeks later, the students presented the outcome of their work to UNICEF.
In those weeks, they worked on their research individually, discussed their findings as a team, and had weekly online meetings with their onsite supervisor, dr Laurence Guérin. The toolbox designed by the Netherlands’ Ombudsman for Children served as a starting point for their research.
A: ‘Although we could apply a lot of what we had learnt in the master’s courses before we started the internship, it was still quite scary because we had to start from scratch. No one knew what was already out there. We had to find out which countries did have toolboxes, and of course, language was a limitation, too. Therefore, we looked at the countries we spoke the language. Besides in English, we could look for toolboxes in Hindi, German and Greek. There was a period we were somewhat confused about how our research would turn out. In the first few months, even though dr Guérin would confirm we were on the right track, I had this thing lurking in the back of my mind. “We are creating something real here. Will our research work out?” It felt like a very responsible task.’
M: ‘Yes, it was kind of scary. We did not know how many toolboxes we would find, so we also looked for articles and papers on how to assess the best interest of the child and studied those. Doing the project was up and down, from very scary and feeling ‘I am inexperienced’ to actually presenting our work and feeling very proud that we found so many things. Looking back, I think we could have expressed our doubts earlier. Only a few weeks before the presentation I asked dr Guérín: “Do you really trust us to present to UNICEF? Are you sure what we did will be beneficial in any way?” She reassured us that everything we did would be an addition to the existing toolbox. She pointed out that what we did with the ethical models was not there at all. Therefore, when things became more practical, dr Guérín guided us a lot. She gave feedback on the presentation and commented on the documents. The first phase, doing the research was overwhelming and intense for us. The distance did not make it easier. With dr Guérín working in The Hague, meeting online was practical and it did work well. I think we could have been more resourceful in asking for help. Like setting up an extra meeting to discuss our worries, and be more open about our insecurities from the start. I will take that with me in future experiences.’
A: ‘I can relate to that very much. We could have looked for more options maybe to verify where our position was in terms of research. The stress was also good because it made us look harder and maybe we found more because of it. We have now built up the confidence that even if you initially are confused, you will figure out where you are in your research. And, once we started analyzing the toolboxes we found in different countries, and extracted elements to use in the new toolbox, it became so interesting! I knew there is a gap between policies and laws, and how laws are implemented. Well, what we did in this internship is about bridging that gap. We worked at the middle point, where you make laws more feasible for professionals that have to make use of those laws. To provide professionals like teachers, educators, and social workers an easier understanding of how to apply the law in the best way possible, because they might not know how to do that. This was a very good insight for me.’
M: ‘I think I have a better understanding of the everyday practice of research. Research is a task you grow into, not something you are expected to know right away. I learnt that, when starting, researchers do not always have a clear idea of what to do. They try to find something out and research requires a lot of teamwork. You have to address things, again and again, just have a go and think about it.’
A: ‘Yes, working individually and as a team was also a great experience. Coming from different countries and having different educational backgrounds, we learnt so much from each other. Each of us analyzed the first two tools and found that from different perspectives we noticed and addressed different things. As a team, you learn things together.’
M: ‘I found that the more practical the work became, the more fun I had. In this first phase of the project, we did the research, and the analysis and then we looked a little bit into the next phase, which is designing. I had so much fun with graphic design and skilled myself in making something that is in your head visible to others. The best part of the project for me was the final presentation and knowing that at that moment, you are the expert. In university, you feel that the professor is probably still the expert; they have done it so many times and probably heard it all before. However, with this presentation, we were the experts. Getting questions and critical comments from UNICEF was such a nice experience. This is not something you are graded on, it is a completely different quality of work, I think. I learnt how to turn research into a practical thing. That translation for me was new.’
A: ‘This project showed me another option of how to combine education and law. This bridging of the gap, I spoke of earlier. I eventually want to go back to India. This experience gave me a new foundation to go further in things I have been involved in in the past, like the implementation of education policy and working on holistic education.’
M: ‘I am a little bummed that the project is over for us now. We will have a meeting with our university supervisor who assesses our reports. The next cohort of students will go on with the toolbox. They will work with software designers, make the website, and try it out with teachers. Then research and the actual practice will be connected even more. I think that is going to be very interesting. Even though I found the practical part more fun, I do not regret doing the research part. I found it very interesting and learnt a lot about my research abilities. I can see myself doing some more research, but not forever. After gaining some practical experience in education, I think I would like to teach at a university and combine practical knowledge with research and teaching.
In the Master's degree programme in Ethics of Education, you are really challenged to think for yourself.
I am Tessa Miedema. I did my Bachelor's degree in Pedagogical Sciences at the UG and then followed the Master's degree programme in Ethics of Education: Philosophy, History & Law.
At the moment, I work as an educational staff member at the Expertise Centre for Critical Thinking (Expertisecentrum Kritisch Denken) at the regional education centre ROC Midden Nederland. The centre is a practical partner for the educational sector and aims to provide a key space for the development of critical thinking in vocational education.
In my work, I support teachers in integrating critical thinking into their teaching. Last year, for example, I co-authored a publication in which we gave educational developers and teachers tools, through which they could give form to education on critical thinking. In addition, I advise internal and external parties on education about critical thinking and citizenship.
In the Master’s degree programme in Ethics of Education, you are really challenged to think for yourself. To this end, I very much appreciated that we were not only encouraged to think from within our own disciplinary perspective but to also pay attention to ethics, philosophy, history and children’s rights. Through this process, I learned how to critically reflect on education. In my view, that is one of the great added values of this Master’s programme.
I personally also liked the small-scale nature of the programme. Because of this, there was a lot of time for interaction during lectures and seminars. You can think along with everyone, gather ideas and consult with one another. At the start, it took some getting used to, but it was precisely the active participation in lectures and seminars that I found to be a great plus point of the degree programme. The degree programme is highly interesting for students who want to think for themselves about problems and discussions in education, for example. There is also enough space to delve into issues that you find interesting.
What I find interesting about ethics is that everything stands and falls with reasoning.
My name is Ward van der Meiden. I come from Terschelling and live in Groningen. Before I started with the Master's degree programme Ethics of Education, I graduated as a maths teacher at the NHL and had completed a pre-master's at the Stichting voor Pedagogisch Onderwijs (SPO). During this pre-master's, I took courses on ethics and the philosophy of science. This really stimulated my interest and helped me decide to follow this Master's.
What I find interesting about ethics is that everything succeeds or fails with reasoning. There is a huge history of philosophical insight. With all these different perspectives on moral dilemmas in education, the quality of your reasoning behind your decisions is crucial.
I followed a course on citizenship. For this course, we followed a lot of lectures on the different visions on citizenship and the history of it in Azerbaijan, China and Europe, for example. As a final assignment, we had to present a poster on what citizenship should look like according to us.
For my internship at the Expertise Centre Critical Thinking at the ROC Midden Nederland, I am looking at how to implement critical thinking into the economic part of citizenship. I am working together with parties who are active in the field – like lecturers, the ROC, a bank and an advisory board of the government.
For my thesis, I am focusing on the criticism of the participatory way in which citizenship currently is lectured. As a student, you learn skills like how to vote or use less plastic, for example. Of course, this has its benefits, but what you don’t always learn is how to think critically about these things. I am gathering all the criticisms on current teaching practices and I am investigating how these relate to the practice. To do this, I am using a number of handbooks popular among teachers for planning their lessons. After completing this review, I want to develop a new method and do a PhD to develop it into a handbook. Once I am finished with this, I would like to lecture on citizenship and ethics.
If you want to follow this master’s programme, my advice is to follow a lecture. The programme is quite small, so the lecturers put a lot of time into helping you on your way. Don’t hesitate to talk to someone – they are always happy to help.
During the master I learned through the course Domain-specific Professional Skills how to have conversations with adults, but also with children.
My name is Maureen Wachtmeester and I am following the Ethics of Education Master's programme. Before this, I studied Philosophy and Pedagogical Sciences at the University of Groningen.
As part of the programme, I am currently following an internship at Filmhub Noord at the Groninger Forum. This is an organization that was founded to bring more attention to film education in primary and secondary education. Filmhub gathers speakers, directors and materials on their website. Teachers can use these materials to get ideas for their lessons or invite speakers.
Alongside my studies, I work at the Pre-University Academy of the University of Groningen, and currently teach philosophy at primary schools. During the Master’s programme, I learned how to have philosophical conversations with adults and children through the domain-specific professional skills course. One of those conversation techniques was the Socratic method. I now apply this knowledge in my work and would like to continue applying it after my studies. Besides this, I think it would be interesting to do research and earn a PhD. I would also like to dedicate myself to philosophy being taught more in primary schools.
My thesis is about empathy, its different notions, its consequences and pitfalls. In recent years, there has been a trend in Dutch education to teach empathy in primary and secondary schools, despite the literature showing that some philosophers do not even believe that empathy can be taught. How do you measure if your student has acquired empathy? It is very difficult to examine. I'm going to read and criticize curriculum.nu proposals with these kinds of criticism in mind.
The Master’s Ethics of Education is an international programme and has a good reputation. I have classmates from all over the world. I think this is really cool because you get a lot of detailed information during discussions about all kinds of things – religion and cultural norms and values, for example. The programme is also quite small, so you are in close contact with lecturers and each other.
If you are interested in this programme, it is a good idea to go to an online master’s day, or to participate in a lecture so you can experience if discussing after lectures is something that suits you. Furthermore, my advice is to check what the subjects of the courses are in advance and think about whether you are interested in them. You need to read a lot for this programme, so it helps if you already know or want to know something about the subjects in question.
I really like the course unit 'Citizenship of Education', which looks at how education influences our democratic societies and how or why education should be responsible or not.
My name is Rosa María Guttiérez. I am Mexican and I am 20 years old. I am following the master's track 'Ethics of Education: Philosophy, History and Law'. Before starting this programme, I gained a Bachelor's degree in Pedagogy in Mexico City. Before studying Pedagogy, I started a programme in International Relations and Political Science, but I didn't finish it. I was looking for a master's programme that would enable me to combine my interest in politics with my background in education.
I compared programmes offered in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Nijmegen with the programme in Groningen, and the latter appealed to me most. The name of the programme indicates that it involves philosophy, which interests me, and I also didn’t want to go to a very big city. Mexico City is huge, and I was looking for a different lifestyle.
I really like Groningen. It’s very nice. Because it is not a big city, everything is within cycling distance. It is a real student city, with a young and interesting population. There is a lot of art and there are different festivals. It’s also very international.
Ethics of Education has helped me to understand what happens behind the scenes before decisions are made in the education field. We still have to find a way of giving voice to all the children we are trying to help or provide for. In this programme, you follow course units in the first semester. In the second semester you complete a placement and write your thesis. I am currently doing a placement at SLO, the Netherlands Institute for Curriculum Development. Some course units focus on the legal background. I really like the course unit ‘Citizenship of Education’, which looks at how education influences our democratic societies and how or why education should be responsible or not.
Then I heard about the Master's programme Ethics of Education. In this programme, my questions are answered.
Before I started this master's degree programme, I followed the Bachelor in Pedagogical Sciences, as well as the primary school teacher training. In those programmes, I ran into a lot of 'why' questions, which were not addressed. Then I heard about the master's programme Ethics of Education. In this programme, my questions are answered.
What is the programme about? I would say that the focus is on the position of the child and the parties involved in the child’s care. Course units include Citizenship and Professionalization, which includes an analysis of past trends.
You follow these courses units in the first semester. In the second semester, you complete a work placement and write your thesis. I am currently on a placement at SLO, the National Centre for Expertise on Curriculum Development. Now I’m contributing to a book on curriculum development in Europe. I am very proud of that.
The atmosphere at the programme is very good. It’s a small programme and I like that. You get to know each other quickly because you have a lot of discussions. The contact with the lecturers is also very nice. They all know you by name, really soon. I think the lecturers appreciate the atmosphere too: teaching a class that actually responds. That’s a change form delivering standard lectures for 400 people.
I follow this master’s degree programme because I am interested in children. The child is at the heart of the programme. Every discussion is about the child. Within that framework, you can pursue your own interests. You are surrounded by people who have the same interests. The academic supervision is good, with frequent consultations and a lot of direct feedback. I really like it!
Jan Jaap Zijlstra, 24 years old.
During my internship at a primary school I found out that the communication between parents and teachers is often poor.
After finishing the 'Academic Pabo', I felt a little too young to start working immediately. I wanted to learn more before I would start to teach others.
I chose the master’s programme ‘Ethics of Education’ because I was interested in moral issues that concern education. For me, that is more interesting than only focussing on policy issues in education. In this master’s programme, you examine what is best for a child. That is very often hard to say, because who decides what is best? The parents, the school or perhaps the child itself? It is very interesting to dive into those issues. I am happy that I decided to study this.
A course İ really liked was ‘In the best interest of the child’. You learn how to make decisions when there is a dilemma and people have different opinions on what might be best for a child. An example would be if it is good for a child to skip a grade. Teachers, parents and children might all want something different. What would be a proper solution for that?
My thesis is about parent involvement. I have always been interested in that. During my internship at a primary school, I found out that the communication between parents and teachers is often poor. I studied a project at a school where parents coach their children individually in class. I am going to examine how that influences the inequality of opportunity for children. In The Netherlands, there is a lot of inequality of opportunity caused by shadow education like private supplementary tutoring or homework coaching. Especially highly educated parents send their children to such courses. I am going to research if this project will have a positive or perhaps a negative effect on this.
Eline van der Raad, master student Ethics of Education
The Ethics of Education degree programme is ideally suited to curious people with an interest in societal issues related to education and child-rearing.
My name is Denise Mensonides. I am 23 years old and I am currently a PhD student at the Centre for Media and Journalism Studies of the University of Groningen. My academic career began in 2015, when I enrolled in the Bachelor's degree programme in Law (specializing in IT law).
When I was in the final stage of my Bachelor's programme, I decided to broaden my horizons and to sign up for the Master's degree programme in Ethics of Education. This degree programme appealed to me because I am interested in social issues related to children. During my Bachelor's programme, I became very interested in family law, for example, and I studied sociology in my Honours Programme. The Master's degree programme was perfectly suited to my interests.
During the programme, I learned a great deal about various ethical issues in society and existing theories on these issues, and I was encouraged to critically consider everyday matters. I also discovered and further developed my passion for research and during my internship, I was given the opportunity to develop an ethical options model focused on religious issues related to the placement of foster children. I was able to use my legal background in this situation to establish a legal framework, after which I conducted a literature review focused on ethical theories regarding the wellbeing of children. I developed an ethical options model based on those two documents. I learned a great deal during this process and I only became more passionate about scientific research.
The topic of my Master’s thesis was children of parents with psychological problems (KOPP: kinderen van ouders met psychische problemen). As part of my research, I worked closely with various hands-on experts who confided in me and told me their personal stories. I wrote my thesis based on these personal histories and included recommendations on proper guidance for KOPP.
After obtaining my Master’s degree, I was given the opportunity to continue with a PhD programme. I am currently conducting research into the development of digital literacy among children aged 8 to 12 from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. I benefit every day from the expertise gained during my Master’s degree programme.
I think the Ethics of Education degree programme is ideally suited to curious people with an interest in societal issues related to education and child-rearing. The Master’s degree programme gives students the opportunity to develop their critical research skills.
I learnt a lot about child development and the factors influencing it.
Since September 2017, I have worked as preschool and early childhood education (VVE) coordinator for six child daycare centres in Haarlem, where I manage and coach about twenty pedagogical staff members. Between my graduation and my current job, I gained experience as manager in an institute for homework support.
When studying Pedagogics in Groningen, I learnt a lot about child development and the factors influencing it. My graduation project focused on child daycare. It was my goal to become a pedagogue in child daycare, and my graduation project turned out to be instrumental in achieving this. I also apply the theoretical knowledge that I acquired in other course units to my job. At the same time, gaining practical experience really only begins once you start working.
I noticed that the main benefit of the degree programme is its ‘meta’ approach; it teaches you to look critically and to do research; which questions should you ask to obtain the answers that you are looking for. Certain knowledge can sometimes also be used in unexpected ways. Statistical knowledge, for instance, helps provide more insight into turnover and staffing and enrolment figures.
The programme consists of three lines:
You will explore four different domains:
In the introduction to ethics, you are introduced to theories on ethics and moral issues. You learn to conduct ethical analyses, moral assessments and to make and justify moral decisions. You do this based on concrete case studies, such as discussions on the right to have children, parental rights versus professional ethics and the right to privacy. You will be equipped, as a future professional, to give substantiated advice on complex situations in education, child raising or in youth care. You learn the basics, preparing you for the other subjects, the internship and the master thesis.
The guiding principle in decision making regarding children, and in discussions on child raising, child and youth care and education, is that the best interests of the child must be paramount. But how do we determine what is in the best interest of the child when considering dilemmas such as conflictual divorce, medical care, radicalisation, youth criminality … How do we weigh advantages and disadvantages, how do we overcome impasses, how do we reach the ultimate conclusions, and do we legitimise policy and decisions?
A core function of child raising and education, is to bring up children to be citizens. Citizenship education has become explicitly mandatory in education and it seems that legislation will become even tighter. There is much controversy as to the nature of good citizenship and how child raising, and education may contribute to its development. What is the nature of this discussion, what is the current state of knowledge and how does this influence both policy and practice? And to what extent is it desirable for the government to interfere with the kind of citizenship schools should stimulate.
Scientification and professionalisation influence working methods in education, in child and youth care, and impact how children and youth are perceived and treated. What are the advantages and what are the risks? What can professionals do to reduce such risks? How can policy contribute to this? In this subject you mainly learn to reason about the influence of professionalisation and scientification on education, child raising and youth care. The emphasis lies on (bio)medicine, child psychology and neuroscience.
You practice your professional skills and are introduced to the practice in which you will work later on as a professional.
This subject prepares you to work successfully as an academic
professional in a wide range of educational institutions, in youth
care and organisations.
Two aspects receive particular attention: (1) you practice your didactical skills, enabling you to work as a teacher in higher education and as a trainer in supporting organisations; (2) you practice skills that prepare you to function as a (policy) advisor, by learning to analyse policy and practices, practicing how to draw up an advisory report in an education/youth care/child raising setting and how to professionally communicate about this.
The internship familiarises you with the demands placed on professionals, and you are introduced to the professional field to which they apply their knowledge and understanding. The internship takes place at an institution or an organisation working in the fields of education, youth care or child raising. During the internship you perform activities that introduce you to the work activities of professionals, to working relationships between professionals, the day-to-day practice within professional organisations, such as the SLO (the national centre for curriculum development), local and provincial government, ROCs, Primary and Secondary schools, MBO Council (Dutch Vocational Education and Training Council), Defence for Children International, etcetera.
During your master's thesis you learn to do research. You can choose among different kinds of research, relevant to future work, such as educational consultant, policy advisor, roles in youth care or education, positions in institutions such as provincial government, or academic researcher. Types of research besides empirical research are for instance: analysis of documents, case studies or video material, literature reviewing, theoretical research (ethical, legal, philosophical), discourse analysis, historical research.