Many of you may be wondering why some houses have a school bag hanging from their – sometimes rather improvised – flagpole.

Others may be perplexed at the number of teenagers roaming the streets weeks before school is officially out. All is about to be revealed.
The school bag display is a Dutch tradition signifying that someone in the household has passed school-leaving exams. Exams are a big deal in Holland where children have to prove themselves academically every year of their secondary school career.
If they don’t pass the year-end exams, the poor things have to suffer the ignominy of doing the whole year again. Some schools go even further and actually kick pupils out of school altogether if they don’t pass.
Imagine what that sort of pressure would do to adults… The end of the school year is stressy for teachers too. There are exams to be marked, reports to write and an endless round of meetings to attend.
So what happens? They could of course set an example and work very, very hard… But no, classes are suspended and the kids are effectively turned out onto the street.
High schools officially have seven weeks summer holiday, but many pupils have nearly three months. No wonder so many of them end up repeating a year.

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