What Dutch teachers are learning from their students

For years, the Stephanus elementary school, located in a low-income neighborhood of Rotterdam, struggled to improve student performance. Then, in 2015, the school joined a McKinsey-founded nonprofit aimed at improving education through better teaching.

Called LeerKracht (which means both “teacher” and “learning power” in Dutch), the initiative helps teachers learn to be better educators by collaborating with their peers and, perhaps most importantly, listening to the people whose very lives they aim to change: their students.

Through the program, Stephanus teachers began to feel empowered to take ownership of their classrooms and grew more engaged in the school’s broader performance. “They started to think more deeply about education,” says principal Astrid van Gogh.

Today, Stephanus is one of more than 750 schools throughout the Netherlands where improvements driven by teachers—rather than administrators—are helping to elevate the nation’s educational standards.

“I believe that teachers make the difference in education,” says Jaap Versfelt, a former McKinsey senior partner who now leads LeerKracht full time. “Not the building, not money—teachers.”

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