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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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The subject of examinations has led to many and sometimes heated discussions. It has become clear that a majority of people want to maintain the civil effect of examinations and that central (independent) examinations should continue, particularly in view of the importance of quality assurance and access to post-secondary course programmes. Many participants, however, also thought that examinations could be modernised and made more flexible, especially in VMBO.

The system of central examinations will continue. The central examination fulfils an important role in our education system. It plays a role in guaranteeing the quality of education and in the continuous learning line to post-secondary education. I also greatly value the ‘passport function’, and guaranteed access to post-secondary education, the so-called civil effect. Institutions of

The pupil captivated, the school unfettered

higher education have the possibility of placing their own emphasis on admission requirements. In no way do I see this as a replacement for the central examination for secondary education. The rights linked to the (partially) central examination (right to enrol) are also non-negotiable.

Although I see no reason to change the system, it can be improved. The challenge is to provide tailored education, to guarantee civil effect and quality and to keep the examinations organisable at the same time. I also want to see whether it is possible in both VMBO and in HAVO/VWO to find several central examination times every year. And I want to respond to the understandable criticism from educators in particular that the existing system can be an obstacle to modernising the content of education. A system in which school examinations play a more prominent role provides good possibilities for tailored education and innovation, e.g. because school examinations can be taken more than once a year. In relation to the limitation of the subject matter for the central examinations, this gives schools room for providing tailored education.

Reducing the management burden and limiting the vulnerability of the system are important points of departure. With regard to the development of a portfolio, which is frequently demanded, opportunities are provided by the compilation of an examination portfolio within the framework of the Leaving Examinations Decree.

The way in which learning experiences are completed and recognised will be co-ordinated more often with the learning process of the pupil. In the measures described below, which are aimed at improving examinations, greater emphasis is placed on the school examinations. This also makes a contribution to the freedom to provide the pupil with a tailored education. And it means that the school will have to work on setting up its own system of quality assurance.


Realising a system of examination that:

• provides tailored education,

• guarantees quality,

• guarantees the civil effect,

• can be organised and managed.


• Several central examination times each year are made possible in VMBO, HAVO and VWO under the condition that no insurmountable objections present themselves with respect to the feasibility of organising them, the regulations or the financial consequences of doing so.

• Limiting the number of subjects that must be tested through central examinations in the VMBO is being studied, although not by means of experiments.

• Schools will be given greater freedom – provided the level stays the same – to design education by striking a new balance between central examinations and school examinations.

The exit qualifications will be less detailed and be formulated in general terms. The content and/or the scope of the central examination for each subject will be limited.

• For the quality assurance of school examinations, quality assurance systems will be set up, with or without external legitimisation (involvement of post-secondary education and the business community).

• It will be possible for pupils to take a central examination in their second to last year.

• The extra regular programmes in VMBO (inter-sector and intra-sector) will be fit into the regular structure and a framework will be established for additional content experiments in VMBO.

• Examinations using ICT that proved themselves in the experiment phase will be included in the production of regular examinations.

• The information and advice on central examinations will be streamlined.

• A feasibility study will be launched into an Examination Bureau in which the current activities of the IB-Groep and the CEVO will be merged and the responsibility for the examinations brought closer to the sector.

• A study is being conducted into whether the second correction can either be dropped or simplified.

The pupil captivated, the school unfettered

• The coercive character of (the regulations on) the programme of testing and completion (PTA) and examinations regulations will be reduced.

• CSPE (the central written practical examination) is the preferred form of examination for the vocation-oriented programmes within all educational routes. For the basic vocational programme in VMBO, this will be realised in 2005, the other educational routes will follow.

• The possibility will be offered in the basic vocational programme in VMBO of sitting examinations for the general subjects in a more flexible manner during the time period in which examinations are administered for the vocational programmes.

• Examination syllabi and the examinations aimed at vocations will be brought into line with the change of the qualification structure in MBO.

• The regulations will be adapted so that it is possible to have pupils in VMBO complete their studies in a subject at a higher level..

All the aforementioned actions will be combined in a package of improvement measures that will be presented to the Lower House in a separate memorandum (including a detailed time schedule) in the autumn of 2004. Implementation of the package of measures will begin in 2005.

3.2. The school unfettered 3.2.1. A personal face in the programme and in the structure Making the pupil the centre of focus means that school will have to work with flexible course programmes. Schools will also have to deal differently with the moments of intake and completion (that are still fixed), schedules and subject content. Without this flexibility, continual learning lines will simply not get off the ground. Schools should be able to offer modern, innovative course programmes tailored to the needs of their pupils.

The national government will continue – in consultation with educators – to determine what is to be learned in the form of attainment targets and exit qualifications. Regulations pertaining to how education will be provided do not fit into the division of responsibilities that I have in mind. Within general attainment targets and exit qualifications, schools will be given maximum freedom to make their own choices with respect to the content and form of education. The measures in the (central) examinations mentioned in section 3.1.4. make an essential contribution to this.

In order to guarantee that the education provided continues to correspond to the developments in the (regional) labour market, greater flexibility in the course programmes will be necessary, especially in VMBO. That is why the resource plans are being expanded. In HAVO and VWO as well, the rules are being simplified.


Promoting the flexibility in the course programmes by:

• Giving schools greater freedom to make their own professional choices.

• Simplifying rules.

• Expanding the resource plans.


a. First stage of secondary education

• Starting 1 August 2006, the legal frameworks with respect to the content, structure and organisation of education will be generalised. Generally formulated attainment targets will serve as guides and the set-up of the course programme will, from then on, be left up to the school.

• For pupils in the first stage of secondary education that are scheduled to follow a work placement process, other requirements will be set as of 1 August 2006 with respect to the attainment targets to be offered.

• In order to provide schools with support for school development, a Project Group will be set

–  –  –

up which will be operational from 2004 up to and including 2008.

b. Second stage

• Greater freedom will be provided to develop the course programme by, among other things, enlarging the optional component and by introducing elective subjects within the set subject combinations. The adaptations of the second stage will be prepared in 2004 and written into a bill at the start of 2005. Then associated amendment decisions will follow in 2005. The Act will take effect on 1 August 2007.


• Schools will be given greater freedom to develop the course programme and to achieve a good link to MBO – e.g. by analogy to the first stage of secondary education – by coming up with a more general description of the exit qualifications.

• It will be made possible for schools to offer broader inter-sector and intra-sector programmes aimed at the regional labour market – while retaining the civil effect and guarantees for transferring to the Regional Training Centre.Possible developments include an external legitimisation of the school examinations.

• Reforms in VMBO will be encouraged and supported by focusing, in the resource plans, on national management at the level of pre-vocational education (VBO). A more detailed version, via a sector approach, will initially follow in the Exploratory resource plans in the autumn of 2004.

• Modern, attractive programmes that link teaching closer to professional practice and that structure teaching so that it is more focused on competencies in order to correspond with developments at Regional Training Centres will be promoted and facilitated.

3.2.2. Social commission: collaboration for the pupil Secondary education plays an important role in young people's development. Each school develops its own approach to preparing pupils for their examinations and becoming fully fledged citizens.

The school can only fulfil its social task if it occupies a position in the midst of society and maintains close ties to the surrounding community. I do not want to dictate to schools how they should build up local contacts, but I will encourage schools to fulfil their social commission. I will consult with the Inspectorate of Education about how the focus of a broad social commission can be included in the inspection framework.

The concept of the broad-based school works well in giving a school a clear position in the local community. I think the social-service practicum is a significant way to bring pupils into contact with aspects of society that are new to them. During such a practicum they develop social skills and acquire a stronger awareness of norms and values. It is also a good way to make a connection between learning inside school and learning outside school.


• In 2007, 25% of secondary schools in the second stage of secondary education were able to offer pupils the chance of a social-service practicum.

• Players in and around the school work together optimally on the school-specific social commission in order to get the best from the pupils.


• Social-service practicums are made possible and encouraged; the learning experiences that are gained through these practicums are recognised. Based on 10 current pilot programmes in the 2003/2004 school year, assistance has been set up so that, from the start of 2004, a promotional and implementation campaign can be launched for the introduction of the social-service practicum.

• The content of the broad-based social commission will be included in the consultation on the inspection framework of the Inspectorate, starting in the 2005/2006 school year. This consultation begins in 2004.

–  –  –

• The attainment targets of the first stage of secondary education - which will take effect on 1 August 2006 - will include citizenship classes.

3.2.3. Staff: the link between learning and the pupil The staff is an indispensable link in the organisation if the school wants to be able to offer the pupil flexibility. To achieve this goal, there must also be flexibility possible in the deployment of staff. In the discussions on the direction of secondary education, many of those involved in the talks indicated that the current qualification system is too rigid. If a school really wants to organise education significantly differently, then people run into obstacles when the question of qualifications arises. The schools' room for manoeuvre and power of innovation is limited by the system according to the partners in the discussion.

The legislative bill 'Occupations in Education' (BIO Act), awards schools greater freedom to implement their own personnel policy because it is no longer determined centrally what certificates a teacher must have. The question instead is whether he or she meets the competency requirements. The demonstration of this competency for now depends on a Higher Education Certificate (from an initial teacher training course or from a competency study in the case of unqualified teachers from other professions). The competency of teaching staff remains a major point of concern for the national government. The competency requirements that will be established on the basis of the BIO Act should give teacher-training programmes and schools sufficient freedom to train and deploy staff in ways that correspond with the choices that the school has made. Schools could also become increasingly involved in the training of their staff and have greater opportunities to maintain the competency of their staff. This provides encouragement for the professional development of the teaching staff, including the school management.


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