Primary schools are lowering the arithmetic bar: report


A large number of primary school children are failing to live up to their abilities in terms of arithmetic skills, the education inspectorate has said in a report.

At least two thirds of children should attain the so-called 1S level in arithmetic but only a third of pupils in regular primary education manage to reach it, the report said.

Many children could do better, the inspectorate said, but are not given enough attention because too much time is spent on children who are not coping and because of inadequate teaching methods.

Schools tended to lower the bar, the inspectorate found, aiming for the basic 1F level which is the minimum requirement. In 2010 the education ministry said schools should aim for at least 65% of pupils attaining the 1S higher level.

‘Not every teacher is aware of the fact that they should be working towards the 1S level. Teaching methods are not always adequate’, the report said.

The probe dates from spring 2019 and did show that children in year six have become slightly better at the subject. However, the coronavirus crisis may put paid to this because according to recent research young children’s normal learning progress had slowed down as a result of the lockdown.

The inspectorate said every school should have an arithmetic coordinator to boost the number of pupils who leave school with better arithmetic skills. Teacher training colleges should also do more to make sure teachers are capable of teaching arithmetic properly.

Caretaker education minister Arie Slob has not reacted to the report yet but had promised earlier to ‘do what is necessary to give all pupils a good grounding in the three Rs’.

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation