Scrapping of final exam resulted in significantly more high school graduates: report

A third of secondary schools in the Netherlands saw all of their final year pupils graduate this year - about 5 times more than in the previous three years, according to a survey among 350 of the total 1,450 secondary schools in the country by newspaper AD. The newspaper attributes the increase in pupils who got their diploma to the coronavirus - the central final exams were canceled, pupils had more time to study, and more opportunities to re-write failed school exams.

The increased pass rate was especially high at VMBO-G/T schools, the theoretical learning path of secondary vocational education. There all pupils passed at 66 percent of schools, compared to 9 percent last year. VWO schools also saw significant increases in diploma achievers. All pupils got their diploma at more than half of VWO schools, compared to 2 percent last year. Sixteen of the surveyed VWO an HAVO schools saw their pass rate increase by over 20 percent this year. 

The coronavirus pandemic resulted in the Ministry for Primary and Secondary Education canceling final central exams this year. Instead the results of the school exams - the exams secondary schools conduct themselves - determined whether or not a pupil got their diploma. Schools were also allowed to give pupils extra retries in consultation with the Education Inspectorate. 

Secondary school council VO-Raad does not think that the increase this year meant that it was easier to get your diploma. "This group of pupils had to take school exams under unexpected and difficult circumstances," spokesperson Linda Zeegers said to the newspaper. The council thinks that the high pass rate is mainly due to the fact that pupils had more time to study for their school exams, as daily life came mostly to a halt due to the coronavirus lockdown. The final tests were also spread over a longer period of time.

Educationalist Dominique Sluijsman also told the newspaper that this year's diplomas are worth just as much as those from previous years. "They also received this diploma for all the prior years. Any schools looked more broadly at their pupils instead of just the flat grades for one exam," she said.