Education gap in Netherlands divides society: report

6th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Differing education levels threaten to divide the Netherlands’ society and democracy, say two Dutch professors.

THE NETHERLANDS – Educational level – not social class – is the main division in society, according to a report published on Monday.

The report, entitled Diploma Democracy, suggests that that the key division in society is no longer between the working and capitalist classes, but rather a political gulf between well-educated and less educated people.

The report, produced for the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, reveals the gulf is further widen as less educated people feel excluded from democratic process as the political elite is usually made up of well-educated people.

Less educated people feel excluded from the established political parties such as the Labour Party or the conservative VVD, and are switching their support to new populist parties like the Socialist Party on the left, or the Freedom Party led by controversial anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders on the right.

This new phenomenon, said professors Mark Bovens and Anchrit Wille of Utrecht and Leiden universities terms, is termed as diploma democracy. 

The authors said attitudes to immigration and integration reveal the political gap most starkly.

Well-educated people tend to view multicultural society in a positive light, while people with a lower level of education are more likely to oppose immigration and be more nationalistic. Their differing views are also mirrored in their opinions towards the European Union.

The report says that even though overall educational levels have risen, the better-educated minority still dominates the political arena because of 'educational inflation'.

The authors take the view that established political parties need to be more responsive to the less educated 60 percent of the electorate to take account of the educational divide in society.

The professors also propose that referenda could be a means to include a wider section of society in the political process, and that compulsory voting would also offer way to draw less educated people back to the polls.

Radio Netherlands / Expatica

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