Single ability secondary schools are increasing segregation: SCP


Children in different secondary school streams are usually taught in separate buildings and this is reducing the contact between different social and academic groups, the government’s socio-cultural think-tank SCP said in a new report.

In addition, the lack of contact at a school level can lead to increased segregation in society as a whole, the SCP said.

Because there is a great correlation between educational level and the children’s backgrounds, ‘this physical separation also means a fairly rigorous social separation,’ the report said. 

The problem is particularly acute in cities, where most schools are segregated and children rarely meet those from other streams, the researchers say. ‘ In this way, secondary education is far removed from its goal of teaching pupils to live together as citizens in a complex and diverse society.’

While schools, parents and government have the ‘best of intentions’, the researchers called on local authorities to focus on stimulating the development of schools with a greater range of abilities.

In the main, Dutch pupils are divided into pre-university (vwo), pre-college (havo) and vocational training (vmbo) streams at the age of 12, in their final year of primary school.

But the two secondary school councils VO-raad and MBO-raad, and the students union Laks, said in January this is too soon, and is promoting unnecessary stress and inequality.

Mixed ability

The organisations would like to see secondary school pupils taught in mixed ability classes for the first three years before being streamed according to academic ability.

In 2019, school inspectors warned of the ‘unacceptable’ inequality in Dutch education because children of well-educated parents are scoring better in final primary school exams than children of equal intelligence from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

For example, well-educated parents are more involved in the choice of school and invest money in tutors, homework classes and training in exam techniques. Their children are also more likely to be labelled dyslexic or as having adhd, which also entitles them to extra teaching time, the inspectors said.

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