School exam marking system ‘a farce’; teachers are too lax: report

The marking system for school-leaving exams is a farce and teachers are often too generous when checking their own pupils’ papers, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.

The private Cito exam board, which sets the national school leaving tests, says its research shows two-thirds of exam papers are not assessed by a second person even though they should be by law. Teachers have confirmed this is widespread, the Volkskrant says.

Education minister Sander Dekker described the Cito findings as ‘unacceptable’, the Volkskrant said.


The report was published in March but has remained ‘under the radar’ since then, while the education ministry tried to tighten up the rules.

This has failed because of resistance from school heads and unions who do not think teachers are paid properly for marking exam papers. Dekker considers marking part of the job.

The Cito research also shows that teachers are often too generous when marking papers – a situation which would be solved if a second teacher had also fully assessed the results. A third random check by Cito markers always resulted in a lower grade, the paper said. In some subjects, the difference was a full mark.


Dutch school leaving certificates are based on a combination of course work, school exams and national exams. Exams are first marked by the pupil’s own teacher, then assessed again by a second teacher from a different school.

But the second assessments are often nothing more than a cursory glance, and there is rarely discussion between teachers about the grades or marking practices, sources told the paper.

‘It is straight up fraud,’ philosophy teacher Paul Hirsch told the paper. ‘Every teacher knows it happens but no one talks about it.’

Pupils are graded from one to 10 with 5.5 and upwards counting as a pass.


School exam results have been in the news since it emerged the papers for 27 exams were stolen from a Rotterdam school.

On Friday news agency ANP reported that all pupils in the Ibn Ghaldoun school’s pre-university stream were aware of the theft although it is unclear how many had access to the papers.

Twenty pupils at the school admitted seeing at least some of the papers prior to taking the exams. Six pre-university and two other pupils have been arrested and remain in custody.

The fraud came to light as the three-week exam period drew to a close when the paper for the final pre-university exam – French – was put online.

All pupils at the Ibn Ghaldoun school had to retake all the stolen papers. In total 15 pre-university, 10 pre-college and two vocational education papers were stolen.

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