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«SECONDARY EDUCATION IN THE NETHERLANDS : AGENDA FOR 2010 “The Pupil Captivated, the School Unfettered” CONTENTS 1. Foreword and structure 2. ...»

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Based on its vision, the school reaches agreements with parents, pupils and the surrounding community. The school then gives an account of the results it achieves to the same community.

Freedom of education is not obligation-free Citizens can establish and maintain a school themselves, within legal frameworks, to correspond with their convictions about life and views on teaching. This is and will remain a mainstay of our education system. This freedom of education guarantees diversity and thus offers opportunities to parents and pupils to choose a school that fits in with their convictions. The national government does not become involved in matters of a philosophical or religious nature and will not prescribe a uniform model in this area. That does not mean that freedom of education is unlimited, it is closely tied to values and standards of our society. Making use of the rights and freedoms offered by Dutch society entails an obligation to defend these rights and freedoms. Each school, whether it is a public school or a privately-run school, a predominantly ‘white school’ or a predominantly ‘black school’, is obliged on this basis to teach its pupils the key values of our society and given them a knowledge of and an understanding for the different sections in society. Each school should also contribute to the integration of all pupils into Dutch society. This integration can be promoted by giving attention to citizenship and having respect for each other. Close collaboration between the school and parents is indispensable in this effort.

2.3.3. From teaching to learning The starting point of Secondary Education in the Netherlands: Agenda for 2010 is to enable education professionals to put the pupil at the centre of focus. As a result, education is no longer primarily focused on curriculum, but rather on the learning process and the educational career of the pupil. That is why greater emphasis is being placed on the preparatory or bridging function of secondary education. Choosing the side of the pupil also means choosing continual learning lines.

Professionals in secondary education agree with me that schools should be responsible for ensuring that these continual learning lines also actually come about. Schools should be given the ability to do this. It is the responsibility of government to remove the bottlenecks in the connection between primary education, secondary education, vocational education and higher education in the area of attainment targets and exit qualifications, competencies, the special needs support structure and funding.

2.3.4. Choosing diversity and professionalism Choosing for differences So many pupils, so many learning styles, so many ambitions, so many backgrounds, so many school situations and so many problems. As I have already said, appealing education cannot be centrally organised. That is why I place responsibilities at the foundation of education – with teachers and other professionals in and around the school. They come into contact with the pupils every day. They know the differences between them and can ensure they all receive suitable

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course programmes, special needs programmes or, for instance, special programmes for highly gifted pupils.

The conclusion is clear: social developments and the differences between pupils call for flexibility and differentiation. To provide schools with greater policy freedom, choices have to be made.

Making relatively minor adaptations to separate dossiers will simply not be enough. A significant change in direction is needed in the roles of the government and of the many parties active in and around education.

The starting point is for the national government – in consultation with educators – is to set general frameworks with respect to quality, accountability and the minimum of what young people must learn. In short: the attainment targets and the exit qualifications. Next, the school staff must determine how to give this concrete shape. Schools thus are given the opportunity to better anticipate and meet the broad range of learning, care and guidance needs that pupils have, all of which ensue from a pupil lagging behind in learning or being ahead in his learning, from a cultural background or from social-emotional circumstances. It will also be made easier for the school to create a safe school environment. This approach will require a different effort from many. In view of the reactions of educators to the proposals for a new first stage of secondary education – which is a clear first step towards giving the school greater freedom – and to my intentions for the Second Phase, many appear to be willing to take on the challenge.

No blueprints, but rather reform from the bottom-up Large national reform movements have contributed to the development of secondary education.

Since then, the awareness has grown that the needs of pupils and the school in its local environment should be the most important reason to initiate reforms. Schools should themselves choose to introduce reforms. Innovation and school development are tasks of the school and the teaching staff. Apart from the pupils themselves, the interests of post-secondary education and employers are also served by innovative, modern schools that work on improving quality. The national government should enable schools to accomplish this. That is why I am committed to an innovation policy that revolves around the dissemination, development and embedding of knowledge. This policy should do justice to the interest of society in seeing this reform introduced and to the interests of the schools. The policy should encourage and facilitate, but also calls for accountability. I think that the education sector itself should take the initiative in the area of innovation, both in choosing the themes and in asking for support. I want to reach agreements about results for this with the sector.

2.3.5. Education is people work The sector as a whole should then be responsible for innovation. At the end of the day, the professionals are and will remain the bearers of education and of school development. The educational relationship between teachers and pupils remains at the centre of education. A teacher does not do this alone, but in a team. Assistants and support staff make a crucial contribution to the work of the teacher. On top of this, professionals from outside the school, such as people from cultural institutions, social organisations, sports organisations and care institutions or practical training supervisors at work placement companies are becoming increasingly important in this. Such people make a contribution to education outside the school (e.g. during practical training) and inside the school, e.g. by giving guest lectures.

During the discussions on the direction of education, it became clear that teachers would like to display their craft in a creative manner. They feel too restrained at present. Recognition for their teaching abilities and for their knowledge of their subject is very important to teachers. I have already outlined how the bridging function of secondary education is becoming increasingly important. The school and the teachers have a contribution to make to this. It is crucial that the craft of the teacher is allowed to reach its full potential and that collaboration becomes a given.

This will require strong and inspiring school leadership. The discussions on the direction of education have shown that, in this respect, the sector still has a world to conquer. The communication between the school management and the teaching staff in particular leaves a lot to be desired.

The pupil captivated, the school unfettered

2.3.6. Specific points for attention A coherent special needs support structure The Cabinet is committed to improving pastoral care, student counselling and the policy on eliminating educational disadvantages. To begin, the complex procedure will be scrutinised.

Pupils with behavioural and learning problems should be given the guidance that they need. Early detection of problems, for which the school bears special responsibility, and tailored provision for the special needs of pupils can prevent pupils from leaving school early. The goal is to set up a special needs support structure in and around the school to detect problems in time and to deal with them effectively. On this point there is interdepartmental collaboration ongoing in the project ‘JONG’.

The current pastoral care system is not up for discussion, because it is just beginning to bear fruit.

No new types of schools will be added. But the Cabinet will respond to the heartfelt cry of schools, pupils and parents to search for a solution for pupils that can no longer be kept in regular education. The facilities for problem pupils will be expanded in number. The Plan of Approach for Safety, which was sent to the Lower House in May 2004, outlines a number of concrete measures that enable schools to achieve a safer school climate.

Examinations: more custom work The current system of central examinations works well because it provides a passport for postsecondary education and guarantees the quality of the education. That is why I will maintain this system in general terms. A diploma continues to give the right of admission to higher education, even if further testing is developed for post-secondary education. But I would like the examination system to correspond better to the learning process of the pupil, to the developments in postsecondary education and to the labour market. In addition to introducing flexibility in the form of fewer subjects whose examinations are given centrally and placing greater emphasis on the school exams, I am focusing here on the possibilities for giving examinations in the year prior to the examination year and on limiting the content and/or scope of the central examinations. It will also become less laborious to complete examination sections at a higher level. These measures will contribute to enabling pupils to utilise their talents.

VMBO: granting more freedom, making it stronger Over 60 per cent of pupils in secondary education attend VMBO. Since its introduction several years ago, VMBO has come under fire in the media. That does not alter the fact that VMBO is now beginning to bear fruit. That is why I think that a structural change that would cause considerable commotion is not sensible at this time. I prefer to strengthen the current VMBO programmes further. VMBO is profiting from the greater policy freedom that all schools have been given.

Tailored programmes are especially important in VMBO because there are enormous differences between pupils and their respective capacities. Also, in comparison with other school types, the risk of early school-leaving is greatest in VMBO.

More specifically, I am committed to far-reaching flexibilisation and reform in the course programmes, among other ways, by linking the learning process closer with practice in the respective professions. It is also necessary, in the interest of the pupil, to be able to respond quickly to the needs of the business community and post-secondary education.

2.3.7. New relationships The school at the centre Today's world requires modern administrative relationships in which schools are initially responsible for providing good, appealing education to all pupils. The team of professionals in and around the school make the choices for the education and possibly the special needs programme.

The laws and regulations should enable schools to do this, provide frameworks and, at the same time, offer schools sufficient possibilities for meeting the needs of pupils and society.

Emphasis will shift to the school and its immediate environment. The national government has set clear frameworks which the school will give content to in consultation with the community. The

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school will account for these choices openly and in a timely fashion. It will do so, in the first instance, to those involved in and around the school, such as the parents, the pupils and the staff.

This multifaceted public accountability is a part of good, modern governance. The public's interest in the quality of education requires it.

The sector is organising itself for real self-management I want to given the sector as a whole a heavy responsibility for innovation, the maintenance of professionalism and for quality assurance, which are the anchors of the modern relationships sought after. This self-management is a part of the planned new administrative relationships. I want to make result-oriented agreements with the sector on these subjects. School heads and members of staff have to let it be known that they see extra value in a professional organisation in which forces can be combined for things such as innovation, quality assurance and setting priorities (in the political arena). A professional organisation, in addition to or in conjunction with school board organisations, can strengthen the independence and the recognisability of the sector. I would therefore like to promote the creation of a professional organisation, but the actual establishment and organisation of a professional organisation is up to the sector itself.

Trust and interaction I would like the national education policy to continue to fit the reality in schools more closely by involving educators better and more directly in the preparation and implementation of this policy.

That is why I intend – in addition to the organised consultation with educational organisations – to give direct interaction with educators a permanent place in the policy development. In a modern administrative relationship, it is important for schools and the parties involved to be heard directly.

Education needs the space and time to develop. At such a time, wrong decisions can sometimes be made. When they are, they must be corrected on site. What I don't want to do is to restructure policy as soon as something goes wrong. Only by giving the sector the freedom to develop can a solid, responsive and innovative sector in secondary education be possible. That doesn't mean that I find everything acceptable. Some things will never become acceptable, such as fraudulent practices, violence and statements that conflict with generally accepted standards and values.

When these things occur, I will call both schools and the sector to account. But within these margins, I will give schools the room and trust to develop themselves.

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