Delay school choice, says minister

Dutch children have to chose their type of secondary school education earlier than children in other industrialised nations and this decision should be delayed, education minister Ronald Plasterk says in an interview with Friday’s Volkskrant.

‘In ever international comparison, organisations like the OECD ask ‘what is it with the Netherlands. Is it not crazy that children are put under pressure at such a young age’,’ Plasterk told the paper. ‘That is too strong a signal to ignore.’
At the moment, most children take a test in their final year of primary school, usually when they are 12, which determines what sort of secondary education they are most suited to.
Rigid streams
The Dutch secondary school system is rigidly streamed. Schools are largely divided into three types: pre-university (vwo), pre-college (havo) and vocational training (vmbo). Movement between different streams is difficult and usually involves a change of school.
In the interview, Plasterk said that delaying this decision would help boost social mobility. Children from an ethnic minority background make up the bulk of the vocational training school population. The school drop-out rate is also high.
In addition, some children were not ready to make such important choices at an early age, Plasterk told the paper.
Last year, the OECD said too many children in the Netherlands were denied the chance to go on to higher education – particularly those from working class or immigrant families. Children sent to vocational training schools had little opportunity to break out of that system, the OECD said. Some 60% of Dutch children go to vmbo schools

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