Making a social contribution with inspiring and innovative ideas. EUR alumni Tarik Aouragh, Tom van Mierlo and Jort van Dalen will join seventeen others (among which master's students, college graduates, recent graduates and PhD graduates with diverse (study) backgrounds) in the Nationale DenkTank 2021. For four months, they will take a close look at the quality of education (primary and secondary), talk to all kinds of stakeholders and then (hopefully) come up with impactful solutions.
The Nationale DenkTank (NDT) was founded in 2005 by six young scientists with the aim of bridging the gap between government institutions, the business community and science, to help Dutch society move forward with innovative ideas. This now annual phenomenon always revolves around a current social problem. Twenty ambitious young people, mostly (almost-)graduates and PhD candidates, work together non-stop for four months. They are continuously coached, there are many guest speakers for inspiration and they are trained in many ways.
"I wanted to make myself useful on a societal level"
Alumnus Tarik Aouragh (Bachelor Econometrics and Operational Research, Master Econometrics and Management Science) was looking for an opportunity to make himself useful in the social field, in addition to a future job in his field of study. He eventually ended up at the National Think Tank, a project that will require his full attention until mid-December.
Tarik: "In addition to a mainly technical study in which social contact is not a major focus, I find it very important to be able to make a social contribution. In the past, I was able to contribute to various initiatives through my student association. From ice skating with refugees to wrapping presents for children. Being socially involved fits my character, I enjoy it and it gives me a lot of energy. A year ago, I was tutoring children with other students. Because of my experiences with this, I was extra interested in joining NDT this year and diving deeper into education."
Sinking your teeth into the theme of education
At the time of the interview, fellow DenkTanker, and fellow EUR alumnus Tom van Mierlo (master Global Business and Sustainability) was unfortunately absent due to illness. Alumnus Jort van Dalen (bachelor History) also started his adventure at NDT mid-August, with great pleasure. His motivation stems from his own experiences with the current education system, a system he would like to see change. In primary school, Jort was advised to go to a vocational school and according to him, that is the crux of the matter: "By having to choose a profession at the age of twelve or thirteen, you make it difficult to develop your talents. Because of that I always had the idea that it doesn't allow you to explore for example the theoretical side."
For Jort, the interest in reading and writing only came when he was about fourteen to fifteen years old, he explains. "A year and a half before that, I should have already chosen what I wanted to do and be able to do when I was thirty. I think that in this way you leave potential talent in society unused. The current system makes it difficult to move between the layers of the education system. This is what motivated me to join the Nationale DenkTank and sink my teeth into the theme of education."
Solution to the teacher shortage
The DenkTankers have been on the road for several months now. Every week, they present their progress to people in the field of education and receive feedback. They then get to work on this and work towards the solution phase. On 14 December, the DenkTank will be concluded with a kick-off during which the current solutions will be presented and the project will 'formally' end.
If time permits, Tarik and Jort would like to continue with their thought-out solutions after the end of the DenkTank. Tarik thinks he has found a solution to reduce the enormous shortage of teachers. "I think a lot of people would be suitable for teaching and would want to become teachers. The bottleneck is mainly in retraining people from other sectors. This is often difficult, unclear and far too unstructured. We think we know how this can best be transformed to get more people into education. During the process you are really stimulated and inspired to come to solutions with which you can make a real impact."
Jort also wants to make an impact, but in doing so it is important that the DenkTankers retain some ownership of the solutions provided, he emphasises. "It is not our intention to write a policy advice and present it to the relevant persons or ministry. That is usually received very warmly, after which it is also very warmly shelved. That is what the second phase of the Denktank is for: working on solutions ourselves. We are given the time and help to implement them.