Students to get more flexibility with secondary school choice to cut education inequalities
Education Minister Dennis Wiersma wants students to be able to make delay their decision about whether they intend to follow a VMBO, HAVO, or VWO program in secondary school. This autumn, he will announce proposals to end the inequality of opportunity which is currently prevalent in education, he said in an interview with AD.
The school choice children make with their parents is still largely determined by a final test given in group 8 of primary school, and advice provided by the school. Experts say this early selection leads to educational opportunities which are not equal for all.
"We have to be prepared to make far-reaching choices in many areas, also when it comes to later selection. As far as I'm concerned, we will get started with that, but the question is, ‘How quickly can that happen?’ Because before you know it, it’s years later," Wiersma told the newspaper.
The minister said he is working out various options to change this, and will present them in the fall. He said it is absolutely certain that different students get better chances than others. “The inequality of opportunity that we are now seeing really upsets me,” the minister said.
Children from lower socio-economic backgrounds are not as likely to have a "stimulating and facilitating home environment," the socio-economic council SER wrote in a report last year. This results in a higher rate of negative education consequences. They are also more likely to be affected by school closures. Equal opportunities are "in everyone's interest", said Steven van Eijck from the SER to NOS. "It's nice to use your talents, do what you're good at and develop further. And that's simply good for our society: everyone can participate." Additional coursework to help children transition to secondary education before guiding them into VMBO, HAVO or VWO can help remedy the problem.
The Education Council agreed, and advised that selection to one of the forms of secondary education should only take place after a three-year transitional period where a student is given more time to grow and develop, and thus be more fairly evaluated. If adopted, it would means that the current school advice and the final primary school test in group 8 will be cancelled. The education minister did not indicate in the interview if he is considering such a major change to the system.
The Education Council also noted that the amount of money parents can spend on primary and secondary school pupils directly impacts their access to quality education. It called on the government and school boards to carefully investigate the growing number of commercial tutoring and homework guidance services, and exam training providers and more formally decide what is necessary for everyone, versus what is a luxury that does not need to be afforded to all children. By doing a better job of funding education, the government can also eliminate many needs for private tutoring and exam training, and provide those services in schools.
The three secondary school programs offered in the Netherlands are voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs (VMBO), hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs (HAVO) or voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs (VWO). The first prepares students for a vocation and is completed by the age of 16, and can lead to higher vocational education. HAVO often runs an extra year to prepare students for higher practical education and poly technical work, while VWO is preparatory for advanced research-based scientific and academic work at a university.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times