Adding up

Something does not quite add up here. For years universities, hbo and teacher training colleges have been complaining about students’ poor levels of English and maths (so much so that some of them are testing first year students on basic grammar and giving them extra lessons).

Then along comes the education council, the government’s senior advisory body on all things educational, to have its say on the matter.
It said yesterday that pupils doing pre-university (vwo) and pre-college (havo) school exams should not be awarded a leaving certificate if they score ‘insufficient’ for maths, Dutch and English. By ”insufficient’ they actually mean five out of 10 or lower – what a considerate way of avoiding the word ‘fail’.
This, the council argues, is one way to make sure school leavers at least have the basic skills.
So what is education minister Ronald Plasterk’s answer to this eminently sensible suggestion? That he does not intend to implement the recommendations because if he did, half of vwo and havo school leavers would then fail their leaving certificate. The consequences, he said, would be ‘dramatic’.
You can, perhaps rightfully, ask why someone who wants to study English or communication studies should actually need to pass maths.
But what is perhaps more dramatic is that half of Holland’s supposedly well-educated secondary school leavers are actually failing maths, English or Dutch but are still given automatic places to study almost whatever they like at university. Somebody here has got their sums wrong.

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