The future of the (plastic) school and student card - 5 challenges

student cards

While educational institutions pride themselves on being circular and environmentally friendly, the school or student card seems to stand the test of time. A stakeholder, a supplier of a digital school card, estimated that 800,000 school cards are issued each year.

In any case, the lifespan of the card has been greatly extended since my own graduation. Often, a student or school card is valid for the entire duration of the course and is no longer replaced every year.

Why should my educational institution use a school card?

The objectives of the school card differ per educational type and institution. The school or student card is used for one or more of the following purposes:

1. Identification for exams/tests

2. Authorisation to gain access to the building and use school facilities such as access to a printer, a coffee machine or a locker

3. Pay for services such as coffee/tea, printing and copying

4. As a student card to get a discount from companies

5. As an identification method to make use of facilities outside the school/university such as gyms

The 5 challenges in implementing a school card

Challenge 1: Availability on the first day of school

This challenge mainly exists at secondary schools, where the first year students first have to have a picture taken by a school photographer. Sometimes it takes several weeks before the pupil is provided with this passport photo which is then printed on the card.

Challenge 2: New cards for latecomers

The arrival of new pupils in the middle of the year is usually an extra burden on the concierge and school administration.

Challenge 3: Help, I've lost my school card!

A short survey at a school in the south of the country showed that during their school career, pupils owned not 1 but often 3 cards, because they lost their card.

Challenge 4: forgetting the school card

A pupil who forgets a school card usually puts a burden on other pupils and the school organisation, in particular the reception desk or the concierge. The question is: "Can I borrow yours?" or "Can I get in without a school card?".

Challenge 5: card technology is rapidly evolving

Rapid developments in card technologies mean that the security of cards can often not be guaranteed. A permanent disadvantage of card technology seems to be that the card, just like the public transport chip card, is already cracked before it is even made.

What is the alternative to a school card?

Are there good alternatives? As a first thought, a school card cannot be wiped clean, reprinted and then reused after a pupil has left. The idea is very circular, but impractical. The most obvious solution, which has great advantages, is of course the use of the mobile phone. This solution undoubtedly appeals to pupils and students, protecting the environment is in their DNA.

But the mobile phone is not entirely convincing either: first of all, the power consumption of a mobile is a burden on the environment. Secondly, for a secondary school, the mobile phone is not always a good option. Many schools focus on restricting or sometimes even banning the use of the mobile phone.

Finally, a digital school card via mobile phone is often only suitable for one purpose, namely identification. When other services have to be used as well, the digital school card app is no longer sufficient. Usually, the next app will soon appear and before you know it, you have a lot of apps on your phone. It's the same problem as before with plastic cards, which I have now linked to one app: Stocard. Now I'm still looking for a Stocard for school apps.

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