Dutch learners' exam postponed after questions revealed online

The national exam in Dutch as a second language has been postponed after details of the test paper were found on social media. Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven said in a letter to parliament that questions from past papers were being shared on chat forums by former candidates. 'Candidates who know the questions have an advantage,' she wrote. 'That is not what we want. Everybody must be given an equal chance.' The national exams authority CvTE said it was investigating how candidates were able to memorise details of the test papers so easily. The written exam has been cancelled and rescheduled for January 1. Candidates who needed to pass the test to meet their integration (inburgering) criteria have had their deadline extended accordingly. The other three elements of the test – listening, speaking and reading – are not affected.  More >

Extra money for trips to parliament

The cabinet is setting aside €18.5m to pay for school trips to the Binnenhof parliamentary complex in The Hague, the AD reported on Thursday. The money, double the current spending limit, will cover extra guides and educational material. Transportation, which had been a problem for some schools, will also be included so school children from all over the country can visit. At the moment some 40% of secondary school children make the trip to watch parliament in action, the AD said. The trips, which were agreed in the government accord but are not mandatory, are an incentive to learn about ‘the principles of the state of law and the fundamental values of our democracy,’ the paper quotes home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren as saying. ‘It’s a fun way of learning something that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives,’ the minister said. Plans to have all school children learn the national anthem and take them on an outing to the Rijksmuseum have not been a great succes so far, the AD writes. Schools are still working on including the Wilhelmus in the curriculum and it is up to individual schools to organise the trip to Amsterdam, the paper points out.  More >

Teacher training fund almost empty

T The money set aside by the government to help people without teaching qualifications stream into teaching is almost finished, Trouw reported on Friday. The education ministry had allocated €3.2m to help people become teachers but the limit has already been reached in some sectors, a spokesman for the DUO education funding body told the paper. The fund is open to help people with a university or college degree go through teacher training and a school could claim up to €20,000 per trainee on their books. The money allocated to trade schools (mbo) has now dried up and the same situation has almost been reached in primary schools, Trouw said. The Netherlands has a major shortage of teachers - up to 3,000 according to some estimates.   More >

Delft overtakes Amsterdam in new ranking

Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University have overtaken Amsterdam as the best Dutch universities in the latest Times Higher Education ranking. The UvA has fallen three places to 62 while Delft has risen from 63 to 58 in the latest THE list. Wageningen is one place behind Delft in joint 59th place. The universities are ranked according to their teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook and the  list is headed by Oxford and Cambridge in Britain, followed by Stanford in the US. Leiden (68), Erasmus (70), Utrecht (75) and Groningen (79) complete the list of seven Dutch universities in the top 100. Tilburg is the only Dutch university outside the top 200. Other rankings give a different picture of the standard of university education in the Netherlands. The most recent Shanghai rankings put Utrecht at the top of the Dutch list while the QS World University Rankings put Amsterdam on top.  More >

Hundreds of village schools face closure

Education council Onderwijsraad and the government could find themselves at loggerheads over a new pupil number norm introduced this year, RTL Nieuws reports. Over 900 primary schools in the Netherlands would have too few pupils if the new standard were to be applied, and an unknown number of schools would face closure, RTL found. The new rules say schools must have a certain number of pupils to remain viable, depending on the number of children in a given municipality. That means that in Amsterdam a primary school must have at least 195 pupils while in a smaller municipality such as Epe or Delfzijl 50 pupils would be enough. The government has pledged to support small schools but the education council is in favour of closing those with 50 or fewer pupils because they are vulnerable to problems such as teachers falling ill or a lack of contact with children of the same age. Small schools can also combine up to four different classes in one schoolroom which is difficult for the teacher, the council claims, and are also relatively more expensive. Financial support Small schools already receive extra government financial aid and this will be upped as of this year. ‘Small schools have a crucial function in small communities,’ education minister Arie Slob said when he outlined the measure. Figures published in 2015 show around one in four Dutch villages have no school. The problem is most acute in the northern province of Friesland, where 185 villages have no educational facilities. The average distance from home to primary school used to be just under one kilometre but has now stretched to 3.4 kilometres, meaning young children can no longer cycle on their own.  More >

Schools could cut classes to four-day week

Two school organisations in Zaanstad are warning that they may have to cut down to a four-day week because of a shortage of teaching staff. The organisations, Agora and Zaan Primair, say personnel numbers have been cut to such an extent that they will have no cover if teachers fall ill during the autumn flu season. 'We know this is going to happen and probably in the short term. We just don't know where.' The two organisations run 55 primary schools in the town in Noord-Holland. It said it had had to implement similar measures last year in the upper two classes (groep 7 and groep 8) in some schools for several weeks. In some schools parents volunteered to stand in for absent teachers, but Spies said the organisations had ruled out a repeat this year. 'We want to preserve the quality of our education and we don't think it is good for the children to have lessons from just anyone. We'd rather do a day less and maintain a high standard.' The education inspectorate said it would not tolerate a long-term reduction to a four-day week if it interfered with the legal requirement to give children a minimum of 940 hours' school per year. 'We realise it is difficult for schools to fix their plans, but the law does not permit a four-day school week,' said a spokesman. Schools are limited by law to a maximum of seven four-day weeks per year.  More >

Fewer children are bullied at school

The number of children being bullied at secondary school has fallen sharply following concerted efforts to tackle the problem, according to new education ministry figures. In 2014, 11% of secondary school pupils said they were bullied, but that has now fallen to 5%, the education ministry figures show. At primary schools, one in 10 under-12s say they are the victim of bullying, the same as in 2016 but down from 14% in 2014. Education minister Arie Slob described the reduction as a 'tremendous performance from schools, teachers, pupils, parents and everyone else who has worked on this.' Nevertheless, 'we must remain on top of the situation', Slob said, adding that reducing bullying requires a long-haul effort. Bullying at school hit the headlines in 2012 when three teenagers committed suicide in quick succession because of being bullied at school. In 2013, then-education minister Sander Dekker and the children's ombudsman drew up a plan of campaign to tackle the problem. In 2015, all schools were required by law to tackle bullying. Primary schools In May this year, a report by five Dutch universities and mental health monitor Trimbos found that only four out of 10 popular methods to combat bullying in primary schools actually worked. The report also showed 30% of primary school children experience instances of bullying at school and a smaller group, 1 in 14, is bullied more than once a week. Of this group a third does not tell anyone about the bullying and 97% of these children have been bullied over several years.  More >