The Year of Learning Classes Is Bankrupt!


The current school system that takes the subject matter as a starting point has had its best time. Providing suitable education within this system leads to increasing work pressure. The current state of the art offers good alternative possibilities.

What is the year of learning class system? 
In the learning year-class system, pupils are grouped according to their age. They are approached in a uniform manner. The curriculum is the starting point of the curriculum year-class system. There is a total supply of learning material that pupils should be able to learn annually. The basic assumption of the year of learning class system is that the same performance requirements can be imposed on children of the same age.

Year of Learning Classes Is Bankrupt!

Signal crackling system
The signals that the current system is cracking on all sides do not lie. There is a high workload, the introduction of suitable education poses many problems, teachers suffer from administrative burdens and schools spend a lot of money on the introduction of all sorts of differentiation models. Often these models also go hand in hand with the administrative burden.

Core problems
There are two core problems with the curriculum class system: the subject matter is the starting point of the system, whereas that must be the child. In addition, there are too many differences in level between children to be workable.

Problem 1: Learning material is the starting point

Average pupil
The basic problem with the curriculum year-class system is that it takes the average pupil as a starting point and adjusts the whole curriculum. But the average pupil does not exist and with virtually such a system you virtually do not have enough. The children who score below average have to walk on their toes, while the above-average pupils continuously receive too little supply. You can of course ‘solve’ that with various ways of differentiation, but that is the horse behind the car tension. You first take a wrong starting point and that you then correct in all kinds of ways.

Cito classification
The test system and the Cito classification with ABCDE or I to V is, in fact, a conviction of the year of learning class system. It makes it crystal clear that the curriculum of the relevant period does not suit a large part of the target group for which the subject matter is intended! For the children with an A / B or I / II score, the subject matter was clearly too easy. For the children with a D / E or IV / V score the subject matter was clearly too difficult. Only for the middle group (50%) the subject matter was somewhat up to standard.

Test system
Due to the current test system, the year of learning class system is actually poured into concrete. For each group there are standards and intermediate norms and you can accurately monitor whether a pupil develops ‘according to the norm’. Apart from the fact that the testing system covers only a very limited part of the development areas, it is a rigid way to take the students’ measurements. Fortunately, more and more awareness has emerged over the past few years.

Complying with the norm
Starting an average student has something particularly compelling and negative. It sounds very friendly when you say ‘the average pupil performs so and so’. But then that average is raised as a standard in the curriculum year-class system and all pupils who do not meet it are ‘laggards’. This observation is not a new sound and there have already been various changes in definitions to alleviate the suffering.But as long as work is done with the curriculum year-class system, the implicit norm remains and therefore also the rejection for the children who do not comply. How pedagogical is it when children always have to walk on their toes? And that we always speak at key scores about ‘the bottom of the group’, ‘weakest students’, ‘lowest performing children’, etc. These children have also performed to their abilities.

“Appreciate the qualities of children and do not put them in a normative system! 

Brain research
The current state of brain research shows that the year of learning curriculum system is not such a sensible way to shape the development of children. It is often about filling up gaps that exist between what the students actually know and the standard set for a specific school year. So instead of using the skills of the students and developing them further, the children are tormented with their weak points.

Personal development and 21st-century skills
It is also quite peculiar: We want to promote the autonomy of children, but work with a system of compliance. We want ‘Bildung’ and ’21st skills’, but we work with a system that is designed for ‘reproduction of the same copies’. Self-regulation, critical and creative thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, all are skills that do not flourish in a tightly guided classroom system.

We want 21st century skills, but we work with a system that is geared towards reproduction of the same copies “

From a pedagogical and didactical perspective you should therefore do something with this. But also from the perspective of society it is not useful to not develop these skills. In this way the current school system is a brake on development.

Problem 2: Too big differences between children are not workable

The fact that you are seriously deficient in the large differences between children with a mostly classroom approach has been known for decades. Already at the introduction of the curriculum year-class system, criticism sounded on this point. Nowadays we can easily measure that between the ten percent best performers and the ten percent least performers halfway through primary education there is already a difference of more than four school years in the field of language.

The bottom 10% of children usually need 2.5 to 6 times as much time to learn something, than for the top 10% of children.

Ever since that awareness began to penetrate, many schools were working with some form of differentiation. But differentiation remained the repair of a system that uses a wrong starting point . Symptom control so. You take the subject matter as the starting point when designing your teaching with the assumption that children develop more or less equally. If that then does not turn out to be the case, you will differentiate in order to do something right for the students.

In addition, convergent differentiation is actually an attempt to make the differences between children as small as possible. You then try to put energy into the unequal equal.

In itself, differentiation is therefore a laudable pursuit. At some point, however, you should ask yourself whether it is not carrying water to the sea. Especially when these efforts lead to work pressure and stress to both teachers and students.

“The differences in level between children are too big to be workable.”

Traditional ways of working
Differentiation knew considerable boundaries in the past, because everything had to be done on paper and the work usually had to be checked by the teacher. The differences between the children were kept artificially smaller in this way than they actually were.  In this way one could continue to work with some degree of reasonableness with the curriculum year-class system.

Digital learning resources
But in these days of a wide range of digital learning tools, the children are growing increasingly apart at an increasingly younger age. The limitations of working on paper are no longer there. A child can go through specific practice material very quickly, without the teacher having to look up the material and afterwards have to look after it. In this way, pupils are running harder and harder against the limits of the curriculum year-class system. After all, these limits prescribe a certain amount of subject matter in a measured time.

This trend will continue in the coming years and will cause ever greater differences between pupils. After all, the digital resources are becoming more and more sophisticated and more and more learning material is available digitally. Practice programs are also increasingly provided with instructional films to make them more teacher-independent.

So you can say: The more you do to personalized learning, the more the learning-substance-class system will come under pressure.

“Personalized learning is putting pressure on the year-round learning class system.”

Working pressure
Correcting a wrong base system costs a lot of energy. And that is exactly what we see in education. The differences in children’s development are increasing and therefore the requirements to correct become more urgent. And that leads to a disproportionate and ever higher workload. We have an outdated and erroneous system and we want to make that ‘appropriate’ now. We turn the problems that this brings with us to the teacher. Working pressure due to plan load is number 2 in the rankings of workload originators.  In particular, plans that are perceived as meaningless lead to stress.

Group plan
An interesting example is the entire hassle with plans and group plans. The increasing demands of the inspection in the field of ‘pupil care’ have led to planning. Because everything must also be carefully described. At least that image has arisen. When the requirements became ever higher and also spread to an increasingly broader target group, the phenomenon of ‘group plan’ arose. Because if you take things together, it is of course much easier and easier to oversee. Except when it becomes massive documents that no teacher can deal with. And that is usually the case. The group plan is a typical case of symptom management that is completely out of control.

Solutions now possible
There has been criticism of the year of learning class system from the outset. Many attempts have been made over the years to adjust the system here and there. But even excellent teachers can not undo the bankruptcy of the curriculum year-pool system.

Today, however, it is different than before. We now live in a time when technology is capable of solving difficult organizational problems and supporting complex organizational models. Beautiful examples are already available.

Individual practice can be facilitated by digital practice software. A lot is available. A good combination of group-based instruction and individual practice offers many possibilities.

In addition, the education inspectorate has released all sorts of interim goals. This gives schools more freedom in organizing their education. Cito also moves by producing adaptive tests.

A national pedagogical movement has started up in response to the settlement culture that has threatened to escalate in recent years. Many educators have enough of the test system and bureaucracy in education.There are more and more voices that the classic system has had its best time. 

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