‘Students are looking for relevance and higher education should offer the right tools to create impact’
It’s really no surprise that Zina Burgers is participating in the Strategic Design Lab ‘Ensuring our education is future-oriented’. The third-year Bachelor student is not only studying on the (Dutch language) Educational Sciences programme; she is also a board member of Education in Transition, where she is committed to ensuring the university integrates social responsibility and long-term values as core educational concepts, focused on relevant current societal challenges.
Zina believes she can deliver value both as a student, as well as from her personal interests. She emphasises that the university not only needs to disseminate knowledge; but that students are also seeking skills like creative and critical thinking, problem solving and working as a team. ‘Often what happens is that students are randomly grouped together and it’s assumed that they will work together well’, Zina explains. ‘But you can learn a lot from the right guidance in this kind of process. How can you make sure that everyone takes on the best role, in which they can get the most out of their own unique qualities?’
Creating changes together
While Zina notes that the desire for change is present with both students and professors,’ a lot of professors don’t know exactly how to create change, or their workload is simply too high to allow the needed time.’ Along with other motivated students from Education in Transition, she organises Teach-ins, where participants create interdisciplinary watch-and-reading-lists around a specific topic and come together to discuss specific societal issues and apply knowledge.
Are students being underestimated? Zina: ‘The other day I heard someone say: education at university is being ‘toddlered’. People assume that there is no intrinsic motivation, but there is, as long as the curriculum connects to what the students want.’
The Design Lab ‘Ensuring our education is future-oriented’ is fully engaged with innovative new ideas. Zina names a couple of examples. ‘Modular education instead of linear, where the students are more in control of their own curriculum and are able to choose for deepening or broadening on topics they find interesting and necessary. Students need to gain more insight into what skills they have, and where they have a lot to learn. Digitalisation, engagement and personalisation are themes that are central to our ideas.’
Realising ideas of students
What is Zina’s personal motivation to participate in the Design Lab, given that she will have finished her studies before 2024? ‘I really would like to see a change for future students. And I notice students and staff are very open to new ideas.’ Zina says that a lot of students have great ideas for educational innovation. ‘But a lot of the time they don’t know where to go with those ideas. The university needs to be more clear on that because I think it’s only logical if you include every stakeholder when it comes to innovation - just like what is happening now with the inclusion of students in the Strategy Design Labs.’.’
Education should focus on current societal challenges
‘The need is there,’ Zina states clearly. ‘Students are looking for relevance for their future. More and more it’s about the skills you have, and not just about what you know. The university should offer more tools so students can develop themselves.’ What would Zina like to see in the future? ‘Education should focus more on current societal challenges, create student involvement, and aim at developing values like making a positive impact in the world.’