«SECONDARY EDUCATION IN THE NETHERLANDS : AGENDA FOR 2010 “The Pupil Captivated, the School Unfettered” CONTENTS 1. Foreword and structure 2. ...»
It is and remains the responsibility of the national government to ensure that secondary education is accessible, within reach, affordable and good. The national setting of frameworks and the supervision of the Inspectorate will guarantee this public interest. It should be clear to schools what requirements they should meet, but the rules that we set should not be a continual frustration for schools. That is why we are cutting back on obstructive regulations. We are simplifying rules, making them more flexible, and repealing them when necessary. The legal framework (Secondary Education Act) is being modernised. This will improve the ability of schools to anticipate and meet the changing requirements that society has set for them faster and better.
The pupil captivated, the school unfettered
Summary OCW enables schools to design the education they provide themselves, so that they can provide their own pupils tailor-made education in their own environment. OCW works within the frameworks and gives greater freedom and responsibility to the schools. The new administrative philosophy can be expressed as follows: "OCW no longer regulates secondary education, but rather enables schools to regulate secondary education".
2.2. Developments in society and in and around the school Education is successful if it anticipates and responds quickly and sufficiently to social developments. Good education is on the ball and prepares young people to take a fully fledged position in a changing society. Many social developments influence the choices we make for tomorrow. In this section, we will discuss the developments that are most important for secondary education.
Secondary education is being directly impacted by the influence of increased individuality and heterogeneity in society. Secondary education also stands at centre stage in the transition of our society into a knowledge economy. There is also the increasing influence of ‘Europe’, even though this is not yet felt strongly at schools. Today, 60 per cent of our regulations are influenced by the European Union. In Lisbon, it was agreed that by 2010, Europe had to be the most competitive knowledge economy in the world. Justifiably, education was given a crucial role to play in this – a role that it now must fulfil. This places considerable pressure on education. Via scores on benchmarks such as early school-leavers, reading and graduates in maths and the exact sciences, the results of the various member states will be compared. Agreements are also being reached at the European level on the competencies that young people must acquire in all European member states.
The international orientation of schools in secondary education is gradually increasing.
Increasingly, more schools are offering bilingual education. This will become more attractive as studying in other EU member states really starts to take off thanks to the adoption of a common bachelor/master's degree structure. International orientation is also becoming very concrete through exchange projects and projects in which young people from different countries work together on assignments via the Internet.
Individualism and diversity The Dutch citizen is increasingly better educated and, in part due to the Internet, is increasingly better informed and sooner up to date. Young people set high requirements for their environment.
They expect to be given high quality and services that take their wishes into consideration.
Modern pupils are self-aware and critical, they know what they want and are not automatically satisfied with the assessment of the teacher or the school management. The same goes for their parents.
Because young people are now independent and individualistic, they want to take more responsibility for their own lives. In addition to school work, many young people give considerable time to jobs as stockers in supermarkets, as newspaper boys/girls, as coaches in sports clubs or as helpers in rest homes. This individualism is putting social cohesion under pressure. Rights and obligations are not necessarily common ground anymore. The questions that must be answered are what are the shared values and norms, and what does good citizenship entail? Also, because of the cultural diversity, especially in the mid-sized and large cities, young people at school can no longer be considered as a single group that can be lumped together in the same category.
Problems accumulate fast, especially at schools located in the middle of disadvantaged neighbourhoods in large cities. This requires quite a lot from the capacity of such schools to adapt themselves.
Expectations from society Society expects education to make an active contribution that goes further than only teaching.
This very often concerns the prevention of problems. The school is considered to be a
sophisticated venue in which to provide information on illnesses, the danger of smoking, drugs or the new phenomenon of loverboys (young pimps that beguile young girls into prostitution). The school can also play an active role in the neighbourhood. Many schools find that it is in the interest of the pupil to develop such activities. It is also a way in which to profile themselves, e.g.
as a diverse school that makes a contribution to the local community. There are also schools that find it difficult to develop extra activities. They ask themselves whether they are assuming responsibility that actually belongs to the parents. Not all schools have sufficient expertise and capacity to take on these 'irregular' activities on the side.
Knowledge economy requires flexible education Creativity, an innovative capacity, technological knowledge and excellence are key concepts in the knowledge economy. Nowadays, knowledge rapidly becomes outdated, which makes the labour market very dynamic. It requires education to be flexible. Also, everyone will have to continually maintain and update what he or she has learned at school. Secondary education is therefore not the final destination in lifelong learning. But during a pupil's years there, an important foundation is laid. Against this background, the learning results can no longer be expressed purely by a demarcated level of knowledge and skills. More and more, the focus is being placed on broad competencies that lay the foundation for lifelong personal and professional development.
If our country wants to be ranked in 2010 among the best knowledge economies, then more highly educated people will be needed, especially in the exact sciences and technology. This will require targeted investments. In addition, VMBO courses (pre-vocational secondary education) will require further strengthening as the foundation of the vocational sector. The disconcertingly high percentage of early school-leavers has to be firmly tackled. By holding onto as many young people as possible and enabling them to participate in the labour process, we improve our competitive strength. We also prevent a group of young people from being left out of and left behind by the rest of society.
Despite good results, all resources should be used Up to now, secondary education in the Netherlands has performed well in international terms.
The Inspectorate of Education is also generally satisfied. The sector achieves this result with relatively little money by international standards. This indicates that the sector has a strong basis, as well as flexibility and the capacity to develop. It is a good sign that, according to the Education Report for 2003 published by the Inspectorate of Education, the first generations of students from the second phase of HAVO (senior general secondary education) and VWO (pre-university education) that have entered higher education are better equipped to learn actively and independently. Also, after the introduction of the second phase, more pupils have reached the finish line of secondary education.
These results are encouraging. But that does not remove the fact that several persistent points, which were also raised during the discussions held on the direction of secondary education with educators, are a cause of concern for the future. For the OECD, the lagging proportion of students in science and technology programmes is a cause of concern in light of the knowledge economy.
The proportion of women studying in these subjects is also low. The percentage of pupils that do not earn a qualification at the level of HAVO/VWO or MBO (senior secondary vocational education) is high compared with other countries. The high dropout rate is primarily apparent at schools in (medium) large cities where disadvantaged groups are concentrated. At schools in these areas, there is often an accumulation of problems. I share the concern of the Inspectorate that this accumulation of problems is of such a nature that, over time, the quality of education in these locations will fall by the wayside, particularly in view of the fact that increasingly fewer numbers of teachers are willing to work at these schools.
These are often the same schools that are confronted with young people that have serious behavioural problems. It cannot be denied that the problems often surface at VMBO schools that have pupils who need extra attention. At these schools you will find the most vulnerable group of pupils and this is one of the reasons that many school heads, staff members and pupils in VMBO are concerned with the negative impact that news of these problems is having on the image of
VMBO. This image ignores the opportunities that VMBO offers to the majority of the pupils and the many positive developments in the VMBO sector.
Teachers: sufficient numbers, good quality It continues to be extremely important to interest more people in taking a job in education. In the years to come, many teachers will leave education to retire on a (pre-)pension. We will need many teachers and other education personnel to take their place. This of course does not pertain solely to having sufficient teaching staff, but also to having good teaching staff. Because good education stands or falls with the quality of the teaching. The discussions on the direction of education have revealed that, for teachers and school heads, continual professionalisation is a pre-condition for being able to function at an optimal level.
Having competent personnel requires reaching agreements on the minimum competencies that personnel must possess. The legislative proposal concerned with professions in education, which the Lower House of Parliament adopted in February 2004, makes it possible to establish a national basic set of competency requirements for teaching professions that make flexibility at the school level possible.
Criticism of current education In the discussions on the direction of education held at schools, pupils have been extraordinarily critical of the education they are receiving. This education is insufficient in the eyes of the selfaware and critical young people of today. They like to go to school, but the education they receive does not catch their interest. They think that it has little relevance or is uninspiring. Coupled with the high dropout rate, this is a bad sign. Apparently we are not tapping the potential that young people possess. And we cannot afford to allow young people to miss the boat in our society.
Teachers are aware of this: they would like to provide these young people with better and more varied education that is geared to their environment. They would like to use their professional knowledge more to offer both the faster and the somewhat slower pupil a challenging programme.
To create a teaching profession that has fervour, more room must be found for personal professionalism.
2.3. The task before us: new answers to new challenges
2.3.1. Challenges for secondary education We live in an open, international society that is characterised by increasing heterogeneity, dynamics and complexity. It is the duty of secondary education to reach young people also within this context. International comparisons show that secondary education is booking good results. At the same time, in the discussions on the direction of education it came to light that the current state of affairs is not an optimum one. We must tap all our resources to maintain these good results. This means that we must concentrate on providing education that captivates young people and that holds their attention as it addresses their talents and sense of responsibility.
Young people want to see that what they learn at school is relevant to their future on the labour market, in post-secondary education and in society. It is therefore important that this education appeals to them and is geared to their environment. The school has to inspire them to learn. In this effort, it is also necessary for the school to be a modern, safe and attractive learning and living environment.
2.3.2. The task of the school Broad-based task The school is a part of our society. To prepare young people to participate fully in society, the school must assist young people in their endeavour to earn the highest degree they can, as well as offer them a broad view of their society. It is important that young people are taught standards and values, that they acquire social competencies, learn to understand Dutch society and are
prepared for active citizenship. Both the school and the parents have an important role to play in this effort.
This broad social task of the school cannot be carried out by the national government. Every school is different, as a result of regional differences and differences between pupils and their parents in a certain neighbourhood. That is why each school develops its own approach to preparing pupils for their examinations and for being fully active citizens.
Collaboration for the pupil It is in the interest of the pupil for the school to stand in the midst of society and have close ties with the surrounding community. For this reason, the school actively seeks to collaborate with the community around the school (local government, Regional Training Centres, trade and industry, cultural, welfare and care institutions, social middle field). The school enters into discussion with these players and, of course, with the parents about giving substance to its social duties. The question to answer is: what does the school want to achieve, within its specific context, in the area of training, standards and values, social competencies, active citizenship and similar areas?