Modernize high school exams, schools council pleads

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The exams in high schools desperately need to be modernized, according to the VO-Raad, the council for high schools in the Netherlands. The current method of exams only test knowledge, while tertiary institutions often also look for other skills like team work and critical thinking, the council says, AD reports.

The current exam methods date back from 1968. Much has changed in schools since 1968. Pupils are increasingly following their own curriculum, working more with digital teaching resources, and skills and social development have become more important. Yet the exams still only test knowledge.  "In the vernacular we say: we teach the students to jump through the exam hoop", Paul Rosenmöller, chairman of the VO-Raad, said to AD.  

The result is that a high school diploma is worth less and less, Rosenmöller said. Tertiary education institutions set additional admission requirements. Students must send in a written motivation, or go for an admission interview in which personal development is discussed. "We now only test knowledge", Rosenmöller said to the newspaper. "That is very important, but higher studies also want to know more about the skills of students such as working in a team or critical thinking. We want to deliver our students as well prepared as possible, so we have to do something about that."

The VO-Raad suggests that pupils be allowed to complete courses at various times in the year, instead of writing all their exams in May. This will give them more time to delve into the material, and they can take the exam when they're ready. Students who failed an exam should also only repeat the subjects they failed. "To repeat a whole year is demotivating and expensive", according to Rosenmöller. The council also suggest reducing the compulsory material for examination, so that schools have more freedom to fill in the content themselves.