iPad-Centered ‘Steve Jobs Schools’ Open in the Netherlands

Associate Editor

Seven public schools in the Netherlands opened in August with Steve Jobs’ name, and Apple’s iPads as their central tools for education.
Based on a model identified by the Education for a New Era Foundation, a Dutch public-private collaboration, the Steve Jobs Schools are the brainchild of market researcher and entrepreneur Maurice de Hond.

Open 50 weeks a year from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., the new public schools will educate children in two groupings by age (4 to 7 and 8 to 12,) rather than grade. Teachers will provide “talent coaching” rather than imparting knowledge in a more traditional instructional style, according to an overview provided about the schools in this video.

De Hond, who is 65, decided to pursue a new vision for education when his young daughter began using the iPad before she could even talk a few years ago.
“I really think school is preparing children for the past, instead of the future,” said de Hond in a phone interview. “When I brought her to school for the first time, I realized it was the same as 32 years ago when I brought my elder son to school—in the same system.”

A year and a half ago, the pollster took his concern to a politician in Amsterdam who is responsible for education, with de Hond saying he wanted to home school his daughter rather than send her “to learn in a museum.” Instead, they began working on a new education model based on iPad use.

Dutch children are educated for the equivalent of about $7,000 per year, per child, and 98 percent of elementary schools are public, said de Hond. Parents can start their own pilot schools if they operate under certain standards established by the government, which is how the Steve Jobs schools are opening. After five years, an experimental school needs at least 200 pupils to continue to receive government funding. If it has not reached that enrollment benchmark, it is closed.

De Hond reports strong interest in the Education for a New Era (O4NT is the acronym for the Dutch equivalent) concept, which different schools are rolling out with their own signature. By January, more than 1,000 students will be learning in 10 to 12 schools across the country. The first schools to open are in Sneek, Breda, Almere (where there are two), Emmen, Heenvliet and Amsterdam.

“Sneek is in an area where there has been diminishing population; they were losing pupils,” he said. “But there are families who wanted to be in the school so much that they moved from other cities to be there.”

Schools have handled financing the iPads in different ways. Vodafone Group PLC, a mobile telecommunications provider, contributed funding. Some schools are providing all students with iPads. Others are requiring parents to pay about $12 per month, with families owning the iPad after three or four years, de Hond said. A foundation is helping parents who cannot afford the iPads.

De Hond partnered with four companies on producing four tools that are part of how the iPads are used. Among them is sCoolSpace, a 3D virtual schoolyard intended to connect students all over the world. Schools pay to use those tools.

While other schools are already using tablet technology, it is not in the way the Steve Jobs Schools will incorporate iPads, de Hond says. “One process is to use new technology to do old things. That’s usually what people are doing—bringing in the textbook as a PDF, for example,” he said. In his schools, the iPad will be a tool for creating, for sharing knowledge. The students can become the teachers, he said.

Asked whether he had sought permission to use Jobs’ name for the schools, de Hond said he had not. “In the Netherlands, many schools have the names of famous people. We want to honor Steve Jobs this way,” he explained. He has yet to hear from Jobs’ widow, or Apple, about their reaction to the schools’ name.

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