Time to hang out the rucksack? School exam results out today

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Almost 200,000 secondary school pupils will find out on Wednesday if they have passed their school leaving exams and whether or not they can hang out their rucksack on a flag pole in celebration.

This year no allowances have been made for the impact of home education and coronavirus, and there are concerns that the percentage of passes may go down. Last year, 94% of pupils were awarded a school leaving certificate. 

The NRC says over the past few years, fewer pupils have specialised in science and that German and French are also slightly out of favour. But Arabic, Turkish, Spanish and Russian are all growth subjects this year.

In addition, fewer pupils in pre-university streams have taken exams in Latin and Greek, but music, dance, the arts and drama have become more popular, the paper said.

New arrivals to the Netherlands may be surprised to notice rucksacks hanging on flagpoles for the next few days – a tradition that shows the neighbours school is over for the children concerned. 

The tradition of hanging out the bag is a fairly new one, and dates from around the 1960s, culture historian Piet de Boer told the AD on Wednesday. 

Although schools started hanging out flags after World War II, it was not until 1965 that the Parool noted a school bag hanging on a flag pole on the Amstelkade, he said.

Gradually more homes began hanging streamers and balloons outside alongside the Dutch flag and despite efforts to ban the use of the flag – reserved for royal use only – the practice has only grown since then. 

“Hanging out the flag for passing a school exam fits in with the way our society is becoming more individualised,” De Boer said. “It is a recent development and in my eyes a tradition needs to be ongoing for at least 100 years. So it still has some way to go.” 

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