‘Sir, I don’t think you’ve got it right’, Marijke says to her professor. Don’t be surprised if your classmates at a Dutch university dare to question the teacher’s authority on the matter. If they think differently, they will let them know.
The Dutch education system is best described as interactive. Naturally there are lectures by skilled academics who provide the newest perspectives within each field of research, but students are expected to develop their own view on the matter and be critical while dealing with a subject. One thing which the Dutch hold in high esteem is each person’s right to his or her own opinions and convictions. In practice, this means an active attitude and the possibility to freely express your views.
This is reflected in the classroom; as part of the interactive approach, students need to present their work to each other and reflect upon the work of others. This is done in seminars, complementing the lectures. Students are taught to work with a problem-based approach in which own analysis and research are very important. When Marijke herself presented her research outline, the teacher could state publicly it is not quite good enough yet. Not to be rude, but to help improve her work. She smiled, exactly what she expected; it helped tackle her research problem.
Lectures for large audiences can make the individual student appear anonymous. The seminar system, in contrast, allows one to actively interact with the teacher. Also, taking a course together with a small group, which meets every week, makes it possible to get to know your fellow students better. As for voicing your opinion or critique in the class, don’t be shy in dealing with classmates. You’ll be welcomed warmly in class once you’ve taken a few coffee breaks together.