Dutch cabinet shoots down CDA proposal to ban smartphones in school classrooms

THE HAGUE - The education ministers in the Cabinet, Robbert Dijkgraaf and Dennis Wiersma, do not support the proposal from coalition party CDA to create a law banning smartphones from school classrooms. Wiersma said it is important that schools determine their own boundaries about this, and feels more in favor of offering ways to support teachers who prefer not to see devices in their classrooms. The CDA idea received a tepid reception in the Tweede Kamer on Wednesday, also by other coalition parties. 


"Schools have the pedagogical-didactic responsibility and professionalism to determine how digital resources can and may be used in the school," said Wiersma in a letter that he and Dijkgraaf sent to parliamentarians in the Tweede Kamer on Thursday. They think a legal prohibition is not an ideal approach to the issue. The ministers also said they believe it will be too time-consuming to create a law solely for this purpose. 


René Peters of the CDA proposed the ban during the education budget debate on Wednesday, saying that he believes it is difficult for some teachers to prevent students from bringing smartphones in the classroom when they are allowed in other classrooms and lessons. Many in the Tweede Kamer shared the concern that smartphones are a significant distraction from the teaching material, but there was little support to outright ban the devices. 


Harm Beertema (PVV) pointed out that he had already made a similar proposal before and was therefore in favor of the idea. But coalition parties VVD, D66 and ChristenUnie were not very enthusiastic. 


Gert-Jan Segers of the ChristenUnie pointed out that schools typically have responsibility in such situations. Zohair El Yassini (VVD) also said that smartphones can sometimes be useful in the classroom, including for educational applications. Wiersma agreed with that. Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks) had strong reservations about the feasibility of such a project, though she did mention a potential “trial balloon” on Twitter. 


The minister agreed with Peters that it is a problem if smartphones are used "excessively and unregulated" in the classroom. "Distracted students, reduced performance and late start of a lesson," are potential consequences, he surmised. 

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