How to build a new education system

What if you’re a student frustrated with¬† the current academic system? What if there are loads of other students who agree with you? What if these students tried everything they could, from infiltrating the university boards to occupying university buildings? All of this happened at the University of Amsterdam, but to no avail. The academic system didn’t make any drastic changes and happily kept on treating students as numbers rather than people, leaving them without education that would them navigate these complex and changing times. That’s when a small, revolutionary group of students and professors started to take matters into their own hands. “What would it look like if we were to build our own education?” they asked themselves. And from that question, The Bildung Academy was built.

I was one of the first students at this academy. Although I can’t describe the full experience, I can say that I learned more at ‘The Bildung’ than during my four years at university and my seven years at high school combined. So when I started to investigate how to make a difference without power and money for Surebuthow, the initiators of the Bildung Academy were the first on my list of people to approach.

Michiel Tolman is the director of the Bildung Academy. He was one of the first of a small group of students that first came with this alternative to the existing education structure. Today, the Bildung Academy has brought education to hundreds of students and, although still struggling trying to fit into the current landscape, is gaining momentum and national recognition by press, public and other universities. In this interview I asked Michiel how he was able to build The Bildung Academy, and do something as brave and stupid as to try to change the education system bottom-up. Here are his answers:


So Michiel didn’t give me some comfortable ‘to-dos’. Instead he challenged me to use my imagination more. How would I imagine a better world? How would I build a team of passionate people, all empowered from their own strengths, fulfilling their potential? In the coming year I will use his imagination techniques to envision an ideal world in which it os clear how an individual without power or money can make a difference. One thing’s for sure, with this interview a first step is taken and the answer has become – at least a little bit –¬† more clear.