Dutch school kids' literacy scores drop below OECD average

The school performance of 15-year-olds in the Netherlands is deteriorating. Especially the reading ability of Netherlands' teens is declining compared to other countries, according to the annual PISA survey, in which 77 countries participate, including the 37 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Compared to the rich OECD countries, Dutch teens' reading ability is below average. 

On reading skills, Dutch pupils received a score of 485 in the latest PISA survey last year. That is 18 points lower than in 2015 and puts the Netherlands slightly below average in the list of OECD countries. 24 percent of 15-year-olds in the Netherlands cannot read at the desired level - they can't get the most important ideas from a text of average level and average length. The OECD average is 23 percent of pupils not reading at a desired level.

Dutch pupils' scores in natural sciences are also deteriorating, from above 520 in 2015 to 503 last year. Mathematical performance, on the other hand, increased slightly from 512 to 519. In both these subjects, the Netherlands is still just above the OECD average. 

Despite the slight increase in mathematical performance, the OECD is still worried about the Netherlands. "If we take all scores into account, the long-term trend is clearly negative", the OECD said in its country report on the Netherlands.

According to education union AOb, the Netherlands now belongs to a group of seven countries whose school performance in all subjects constantly showed a downward trend since 2003. 

Henrik de Moel of AOb called the Netherlands latest PISA scores "very worrying". "It is a shame that in a rich country like the Netherlands, we are unable to maintain our education", he said. According to him, a major problem is that education inequality in the Netherlands is increasing. "Highly educated parents and parents with a higher income nowadays invest from the first year in extra classes, or even before that. For children of those parents, the damage is not too bd. But for children of parents with a lower socio-economic status, the problems cannot be ignored."

If government policy doesn't change, the Dutch education system will only continue to deteriorate, De Moel said. "The 15-year-olds who now show these poor scores started at a secondary school an average of three years ago. Then the teacher shortages in primary education were not as serious as they are today. Also in physics, chemistry and mathematics - subjects directly related tot he PISA results - high school students will receive fewer lessons, or they will receive lessons from unqualified teachers. So we can expect that the problems in our education system will only get bigger."

Teachers in primary and secondary education have been campaigning for the government to push more money into education for over a year. Their next strike, which will last two days, is scheduled for January 30th and 31st.