Primary school tests start as criticism of early streaming grows


Some 170,000 children in their last year of primary school will take tests over the next three weeks which are designed to monitor their language and mathematical skills and which will help determine what type of secondary school they will go to.

The tests, known as the doorstroom or “advancement” tests are earlier than in previous years so the results can be taken into account when children are streamed for secondary school.

The tests will take place over two half days between now and February 18, at a time to suit the schools. Six different sets of tests have won government approval and schools are free to choose which set to use.

Under the previous system, children had to choose a secondary school before the final tests and this meant that those who scored well could no longer move up a stream. In the new system schools will also be required to adjust their earlier assessment of pupils’ abilities if the tests indicate they could go to a higher level.

“It used to be that schools would often refuse to change their recommendations after the results, and if they did, it was often harder to find a different secondary school,” Lobke Vlaming of parents’ organisation Ouders en Onderwijs told the Telegraaf.

The current Dutch system, by which children are streamed into trade school (vmbo), pre college (havo) or pre university (vwo) at the age of 12 has come in for increasing criticism in recent years.

Earlier this month, education campaign group KIS said primary schools are continuing to discriminate against children from migrant backgrounds when deciding what level of secondary school they should go to.

Being placed in a lower stream could hold back children’s development by years and severely damage their self-esteem, KIS researcher Suzan de Winter-Koçak told

The PO-Raad, the advisory body for primary schools, has also called for the system to be overhauled. In a letter to parliament last May, the council said the current system had “mostly negative effects on pupils with a migrant background and from less favourable social-economic environments.”

Once placed in a certain category, it is more difficult to move up to a different level of education because so many secondary schools only offer one type.

The proportion of mixed ability first year classes, known as brugklassen or bridge classes in Dutch, has gone down from 70% to 55% over the past 10 years. Some 54% of 12-year-olds currently go to vmbo schools, while 22% are in pre-university streams and 24% in pre-college streams.


School inspectors have also 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 government’s socio-cultural advice group SCP has also said the lack of contact between different social groups at a school level can lead to increased segregation in society as a whole.

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