Blue Tulip Awards’ challenges in Education & Employment


All our lives, we never stop learning. But exactly how we learn is rapidly changing. Education is developing with the use of new technologies needs to get us ready for jobs that don’t even exist yet. Add to that a global pandemic keeping both students and workers at home, and it raises some unexpected questions and interesting challenges. The Education & Employment theme of the second generation of the Blue Tulip Awards is looking for innovations to solve those -and more – puzzles. 

Education & Employment partner, jury and winner

With the current pandemic in mind, forcing both schools and corporations to quickly adopt new ways of working and learning, we asked the experts about the future of work and education. We asked Blue Tulip Award partner Marnix Broer of StuDocu, jury member Jacqueline Touw of Sligro and last years’ winner Anouk Binkhuysen from Faqta their view on the current challenges.

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Faqta flips the classroom

Anouk Binkhuysen is founder of Faqta, an online learning platform for primary schools. With its online platform of theme-based projects with educational videos, the company aims to ‘flip the classroom’ and stimulate a more active way of learning. The impactful way of combining online video’s with meaningful coaching earned her the Blue Tulip Award in the Education theme of last year. Being a remote learning platform in times of COVID is not the worst position to be in. 

“We started Faqta from the idea that education shouldn’t stop at the end of a school day when you go home”, says Binkhuysen. “That vision translates very well to the current situation. Our platform offers the type of hybrid education that offers a solution for schools.” Needless to say, the adoption of their product has accelerated.  

The COVID-effect on schools

That wasn’t immediately the case, says Binkhuysen. “Schools in The Netherlands usually make their decisions for the next school year between March and July. However, due to the lockdown, they were closed for business, which slowed down growth. So we have some catching up to do.” During the summer, things started turning around for Faqta. They are currently working with 247 primary schools in The Netherlands, with 41,000 students using the platform to learn at least three times a week. So far, Faqta reports a churn rate of zero. 

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With the pandemic being far from over, schools are looking for a solution to keep their students in the loop, even when coming to school is not an option. “With the obligation of working and learning at home, schools are forced to digital education. Video is essential in the transfer of knowledge and the scepticism surrounding video has changed. We are now able to accelerate the shift to digital education and to approach it smartly.” 

‘Education is old-fashioned’

On another level of education, Marnix Broer from StuDocu sees the same trends. “I’m impressed with how quickly universities adapted to new education techniques,” he says. StuDocu offers an online platform where students of European colleges and Universities can share their knowledge. 

“Education is an old-fashioned realm,” Broer says. “Schools have only recently ditched the chalkboard for a smartboard, so to say, but it is mainly still one person in front of the class, having a say. Despite that, we see a huge acceleration, in which educators start to work with technology that has been available for the last three years.” 

‘Studying like crazy’

For StuDocu, this offers chances. Broer: “The first two weeks of March, our usage declined. The Universities were closed, students figured they had some free time. But when it occurred that exams were still on, we could see from our user statistics that they started studying like crazy. After that, we went back to our normal growth.” For StuDocu, ‘normal’ is relative. The edtech-company currently has 15 million monthly users, which it aims to double next year.

Besides helping students study, Broer also hopes StuDocu prepares them for the working life. He sees a strong disconnect between the two: “First off, working together is discouraged. An assignment is done alone otherwise, it’s cheating. In a job, cooperation is a must. Second, companies thrive on innovation, or they go bankrupt. Education is lagging here. And third, it’s old fashioned to learn everything by heart. Now that we have vast knowledge at our fingertips. I think it’s more important to understand and be able to use this knowledge.”

The social aspect of online learning

On the other side of graduation, Jacqueline Touw notices the same developments. Touw is CHRO of Sligro Food Group, a major player in the wholesale of food and food-related products in The Netherlands and Belgium. She is, among others, responsible for internal education of all employees. “Major trends in education involve online solutions. Technology helps us to learn, to develop”, she says.

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“This stimulates different types of peer learning which in turn will increase learning efficiency.” The digital path does offer some challenges, according to Touw. “The social aspect of learning, building relationships, dealing with feedback, celebrating successes or sharing experiences, are all an important part of learning. To implement these is a challenge.” 

This tech-ecosystem of learning and working is accelerated by COVID, says Touw. “Now we also need to learn to deal with online work and education. That also means we need to deal with new personal challenges. How to benchmark yourself with others and know where you stand and feel competent, how to cope with stress and even loneliness. But also how to promote ourselves in a group. An online environment requires different social skills.” 

The importance of working together

“The world of education is being hindered by the real world. Many companies haven’t reached a certain level of digitization yet. So people that join that company probably have more high-tech at home than at work. Companies need to adopt new technologies so they can shift to a way of work that connects more to the way people are educated.” 

It does lead to corporations keeping a closer eye on developments in education, Touw notices: “Education used to absorb trends and influences from the business world. Now they are more often choosing for co-creation.” Touw points to incubators at Academies and collaborations between corporations and Universities, such as the development of solar-powered racing cars at the University of Twente. 

Co-creation is here to stay

This form of co-creation will only get more prevalent in the future, says Touw. “There’s no one clear answer to all the current questions. Corporations, governments and educational institutions must work together. The Blue Tulip Awards is a good example. It fosters innovation, offers exposure and works as an accelerator. The questions we’re facing are clear, these awards help to get answers within reach.”

But even finding an answer to the most pressing matters that are currently facing the world of work and education, will not guarantee success, says Broer from StuDocu. “Some innovations are brilliant, with great ideas, but many will not make it. Not every entrepreneur or innovator is also skilled in things like marketing or PR. The Blue Tulip Awards puts these small companies in a bright spotlight which will really help them.” 

‘Innovating is tough’

Speaking from experience, Binkhuysen from Faqta agrees: “This programme puts you on the map. We participated to distinguish ourselves, and also for a bit of marketing to the outside world. The bundle of prizes they offer is of a very high level. It offers access to knowledge that money can’t buy.”

“Innovating is tough. It’s hard work. Sometimes it’s hard to push forward, not knowing for sure if you’re on the right track. It can feel like you’re a voice crying in the wilderness. That is why this programme is so important. Not necessarily to win the prize. It can be just as important to connect with peers and get recognition there.”

Register now for the Education & Employment theme

The second generation of the Blue Tulip Awards is now open for registration. Can you re-invent education so it prepares children for jobs that don’t even exist yet? Or prepare employees for a way of work that is yet to be invented? Innovators in the world of Education & Employment that are ready to push forward can sign up on the website of the Blue Tulip Awards. Registration is open now, you have until December 11th so don’t wait.

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