The Dutch Education System

 

The Dutch Education System


The Dutch Education System

 

Most children start school at the age of four. Education is compulsory from the age of five until the end of the school year in which the child reaches his/her 16th birthday. After that, part-time school attendance (i.e. at least one or two days a week) is compulsory for another year. There are approximately 7,000 primary schools in the Netherlands, offering primary education (ISCED 0 and 1) for all children aged 4 to approximately 12.

 

Children start school in class 1 and finish in class 8. The children of the first four classes form the junior section and are aged 4 to 8. The 9 to 12-year-olds are in the senior section, which comprises classes 5 up to and including 8. In some schools, children of different ages are placed together in the same class. Other schools group children according to their level of development. In all cases, schools will take account of the differences between the children.

 

Local authorities generally send parents a letter once their child reaches the age of 3, reminding them to register their child at a primary school. They are urged to register in good time at a school of their choice. Some schools have waiting lists. During registration, parents inform the primary school of the child’s tax and social insurance number. The parents will have been given this number by the tax authorities prior to registration.

 

Primary – or basic education as it is called in the Netherlands – creates a basis for the education that is to follow. Schools are obliged to teach a number of different subjects including arithmetic, the Dutch as well as the English language, geography or such subjects as the promotion of healthy behaviour, for instance. What knowledge and skills children are to have is set out in attainment goals. These goals not only provide schools with a frame of reference, it also informs parents of what the schools are teaching their children.

 

After primary school, there is a choice of three types of schools offering (lower) secondary education:

 

- pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO)
- senior general secondary education (HAVO)
- pre-university education (VWO)

 

Sometimes it is not sure what is the best school for the child, then there is the possibility to do one or two "bridgeclasses" between two types of schools. For example: the bridgeclass HAVO/VWO or VMBO/HAVO.

 

Each type of secondary school starts with a basic or core curriculum. The subjects in the core curriculum are the same, irrespective of the type of school. With this curriculum, schools aim to show how the various subjects are interlinked, for instance by taking a specific topic and studying it in various subjects, or by grouping subjects together, e.g. studying ‘nature’ in a combination of physics, chemistry and biology.

 

In case of the bridgeclasses: at the end of year 1 or 2, the school recommends the type of secondary education most appropriate for each individual pupil, i.e. VMBO, HAVO or VWO. In the case of pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO), pupils choose one of four learning tracks, e.g. ‘building and construction’ or ‘care and welfare’. Those going on to senior general secondary education (HAVO) or pre-university education (VWO) choose a subject combination in the ‘second phase’. Two of these combinations are ‘economics and society’ and ‘nature and technology’. After successfully obtaining a secondary education diploma, pupils then go on to a senior secondary vocational school (MBO) or into higher education. Higher education comprises higher professional education (HBO) and university education (WO).

 

There are also secondary schools for children with special educational needs, such as schools for the physically handicapped, the hearing/visually impaired or the chronically ill. In addition, practical training (ISCED 2c) is available for youngsters who, despite receiving extra help, have difficulty completing secondary education courses.

 

Pre-vocational secondary education (ISCED 2) is a four-year course and comprises four learning tracks: the theoretical learning track, the combined learning track, the advanced vocational learning track and the basic vocational learning track. Each learning track offers different possibilities for transfer to senior secondary vocational education (MBO). The first three tracks are closely linked to one another and lead to MBO levels 3 and 4. The fourth, the basic vocational learning track, leads to MBO level 2.

is a four-year course and comprises four learning tracks: the theoretical learning track the combined learning track the advanced vocational learning track and the basic vocational learning track Each learning track offers different possibilities for transfer to senior secondary vocational education (MBO). The first three tracks are closely linked to one another and lead to MBO levels 3 and 4. The fourth, the basic vocational learning track, leads to MBO level 2.

 

In addition to learning tracks, pre-vocational education is divided into four sectors with fixed curricula. At the end of the second year, pupils choose one of four sectors:

 

- technology
- care and welfare
- economics
- agriculture

 

At the senior general secondary education and pre-university secondary education levels (ISCED 2a/3a), pupils can choose one of the following subject combinations:

 

- nature and technology
- nature and health
- economics and society
- culture and society

 

A subject combination is a cohesive educational programme that prepares pupils for higher education. All combinations include common and combination-specific subjects. There is an optional section in which pupils opt to complete subjects from other combinations, thus enhancing their opportunities in higher education.

 

Leaving school with a basic qualification is essential if youngsters are to have as many employment opportunities as possible. A diploma at pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) level does not qualify as a basic qualification, it merely gives the pupil access to the next level of education, i.e. senior secondary vocational education (MBO). In contrast, senior general secondary education (HAVO), pre-university education (VWO) and senior secondary vocational education (MBO level 2) diplomas do qualify as a basic qualification, enabling individuals to perform skilled work. A diploma from one of these types of schools is therefore not only an award for achievement, it also marks the start of the pupil’s next phase in life, which may entail work or continued study. The government is making every possible effort to ensure that all youngsters leave school with a basic qualification. Young people up to the age of 23 who no longer attend school and have no diploma are registered by schools with the local authority as early school leavers. The school attendance officer, or, in the case of 18 to 23-year-olds, the co-ordinator of the Regional Registration and Co-ordination Centre for Early School Leavers, then comes into action to ensure that the individual in question goes back to school and gets a diploma.

 

Senior secondary vocational education (ISCED 2c/3a/3c) offers several vocational training courses ranging from training for the baking and butchery trades to training for occupations in the environmental or catering sector. Each year, approximately 435,000 young people opt for this type of vocational training. Training is given at four levels:

offers several vocational training courses ranging from training for the baking and butchery trades to training for occupations in the environmental or catering sector. Each year, approximately 435,000 young people opt for this type of vocational training. Training is given at four levels:

1. The six-month to one-year assistant training (ISCED 2c) prepares students to perform simple work.

 

2. The two- to three-year basic vocational training (ISCED 3c) prepares students to perform more complicated work.

 

3. The two- to three-year vocational training (ISCED 3c) prepares students to perform work independently.

 

4. The three- to four-year middle management (ISCED 3a) and one- to two-year supplementary specialist training (ISCED 4) prepare students to bear responsibilihty for the execution of tasks, with a wide range of highly versatile skills or a high level of specialisation. Students completing level 4 training can transfer to higher professional education (HBO).

 

All training courses combine learning in the classroom and practical training. There are two varieties: the vocational training route (BOL) and the day or block release route (BBL). The vocational training route entails at least 20%, but no more than 60% practical training, whereas the day or block release route comprises at least 60% practical training. As part of the practical side of the training, known as workplace training (BPV), students work as apprentices in companies providing practical training. This system has advantages for both parties in that the student gains practical experience and the company benefits from new expertise the student may bring in. Moreover, the emphasis specific trade and industry sectors place on training ensures that the sector itself will have sufficient well-trained personnel in the future.

 

Dutch higher education is composed of higher professional education and university education (ISCED 5a/5b). This is called a binary system. The task of the universities of applied science is to offer higher professional education, whereas that of universities is to provide academic, research-oriented programmes. After the first year of higher professional education (propedeuse), students may transfer to a university. Approximately one in seven university students first completed a higher professional education (HBO, ISCED 5b) course.

 

A full-time higher professional education course usually lasts four years. Part-time courses are also available, and some students follow work-study programmes (known as dual training). Independent research or the investigation of academic and scientific issues requires a university-level education.

 

A diploma at senior general secondary education level (HAVO) is required to follow a course at higher professional education (HBO) level. To gain entrance to university, students need a pre-university (VWO) diploma. In addition, students with a diploma at MBO level 4 are eligible for higher professional education (HBO) courses, in much the same way as the completion of the first year of higher professional education (propedeuse) allows students to transfer to university. Whilst still at secondary school, pupils at the HAVO and VWO levels opt to complete a certain subject combination. Some higher education courses require the completion of a particular combination. Other courses such as dance or sport require specific skills that are assessed by the educational institution itself. Some education programmes also grant exemptions from certain subjects successfully completed during prior training.

 

People without the necessary preliminary education who are over the age of 18 and interested in higher education can follow courses at the Open University (ISCED 5a). The Open University does not set any admission requirements and administers its own examinations for students aged 21 and over.

 

The higher education Bachelor’s-Master’s degree (BaMa) structure has been in place in Netherlands since September 2002. Students are awarded a Bachelor’s degree after successfully completing a four-year course of higher professional education (HBO) or a three-year course of university education (WO). Graduates with an higher professional education (HBO) Bachelor’s degree can, and generally do, start on a career, although they can pursue a Master’s degree either at higher professional education (HBO) level or at university (WO) level. After receiving a university Bachelor’s degree, students can progress through to the next stage, i.e. a Master’s degree programme. Students who obtain a Bachelor’s degree are eligible for at least one Master’s degree programme.

 

Graduates with a university, higher professional education (HBO) or post-initial Master’s degree can then go on to pursue a doctorate (ISCED 6) at university. A doctorate programme entails research and a thesis.


Some statistical data:


Surface in km²
 
41.500 km²
2004

 
Population

 
16.292.000
2005

 
Population, number of inhabitants per km² 482
 
2005

 
Population growth

 
0,2 %

 
2004

 
Inflation 1,3% January 2006
 
Economical growth
 
1,6%   
4th kwarter of  2005
 
GDP

 
1,4

2,5
2004

2006
GDP in million €
528.900

 
April 2005
Nett national income per inhabitant (%)
 
0,7 2004
GDP per capita
 
€ 28.000
 
2002
Unemployment rate

 
6,1%

 
Nov.'05 – Jan.'06
 
Youth unemployment rate below the age of 25 years old (in %)
 
11,4 2006
Distribution of upper secondary level (ISCED 3) students by programme orientation (general or vocational) General: 66%
Vocational: 34%
2003-2004
Share of education and training expenses in the GDP (in %)
5,6
2004
Unemployment rates by age group in % 15–24 year: 13,3   
25–34 year: 5,9
35–44 year: 5,7
45–54 year: 4,9
55–64 year: 4,8
 
2004
Unemployment rates by level of qualification in %
 
ISCED 0-2: 18,1
ISCED 3-4: 8,4
ISCED 5-6: 5,3
2000
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