Exam training under fire in primary school tests

Education minister Arie Slob wants primary school pupils to take their year 8 exams earlier in the spring term, in an effort to improve equality of opportunity. Currently teachers give parents their recommendations about what sort of secondary school children should go to in late February and the school leaving tests – which can lead teachers to reconsider - take place in April. But the time gap between the first recommendation and the final one is increasingly being used by parents to coach their children so they can up their final scores. This means that children whose parents can afford the extra help have an added advantage. ‘In addition, I consider it important that the pressure on pupils and parents to perform well does not increase any further,’ Slob said. Since 2015, the role of teachers in deciding what sort of school pupils go to at the age of 12 has been boosted and that of national tests, such as the Cito, downplayed. Last year, it emerged that primary school teachers are being pressured by parents to change their recommendations about what sort of secondary school children should go to. The survey of 2,000 teachers by the CNV trade union showed three-quarters had faced pressure from parents to recommend children went to a more academic secondary school. Dutch children are selected for one of three streams at the age of 12: pre-university (vwo), pre-college (havo) and vocational training (vmbo). The plan has to be debated in parliament and it will be the 2021-22 school year before the change can be implemented.  More >

Exam chaos at Amsterdam trade school

Over three-quarters of pupils in the final year of an Amsterdam trade school have been told they have to take more tests before their final grades in their school leaving exams can be established. School inspectors were brought in after it emerged pupils had not taken several compulsory exams and now 68 of 77 pupils have been told they need to sit more tests. It is unclear whether the problems are due to administrative errors or sloppiness on behalf of teachers, but 'there are problems in every subject' a spokesman for the Calvijn College told the Volkskrant. The nine pupils who have taken all the vmbo exams have to wait for the rest to find out their results. Some 15 pupils have to take more than two exams to finish their school year. There were similar problems with incomplete exams at a trade school in Maastricht last year.  More >

Islamic college banned from issuing grades

An Islamic further education college has been stripped of its title and been barred from awarding grades to its students by education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven. Van Engelshoven was responding to a report by the education inspectorate into management and financial problems at the Europe Islamic University of Applied Sciences (EIUAS) in Rotterdam. The fraud investigation service FIOD launched an inquiry into the college's fundraising activities in 2016, which was followed by a review by the education department of the effect of fraud on the school's operation. Inspectors concluded that the college's board was unable to provide complete accounts for several years and had set its budget at an unrealistic level. The school was placed under extra supervision, but inspectors twice said its situation had not improved. In November Van Engelshoven gave the EIUAS three months' notice to guarantee its financial and administrative continuity or face closure. She warned that the financial problems were so severe that its status as a place of learning was in doubt. The college has been declared bankrupt and no classes have been taught since February. It will now have to reapply for the right to award grades to students who enrol for its masters course in Islamic Spiritual Counselling. The institution has no formal connections to the Islamic University of Applied Sciences Rotterdam. The development came just days after another Islamic centre of learning, the Cornelis Haga Lyceum in Amsterdam, sought an injunction against the Dutch state to block publication of a report by education inspectors. The lawyer for the school, Wouter Pors, said the report should not be published 'in its current form'. Dutch media reported that the inspectors had given the school a 'fail' rating. The AIVD security service claimed in a recent report that Amsterdam's only Islamic secondary school was dominated by 'Salafist' influences and a controversial British imam, Haitham al-Haddid had held secret meetings on campus. It also said that the head of the school and his brother donated money to a Chechen terrorist organisation. The school has denied that its curriculum is influenced by fundamentalism and said four Salafists who visited the school had no contact with its pupils.  More >

Entry criteria students too lax: report

Universities are too much alike in the Netherlands and too many students fail at the first hurdle, independent government science and technology advisory body AWTI has said in a report on how to make higher education future proof. The report, which is to be handed over to education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven on Wedsneday, contains a number of recommendations and calls for stricter admission criteria for students. ‘It is important that young people choose a course that is suited to them but that is not always the case,’ chair of the research committee Uri Rosenthal said. Drop-out rates are high. ‘A quarter and sometimes up to a third of the students is taking up studies that are not for them, Rosenthal said. There is also a mismatch between the courses on offer and the labour market which has resulted in a lack of people trained in science and technology, the committee found. Student organisations said in a reaction that a stricter selection of bachelor students will make higher education less accessible and that selection tests are ‘random and not based on science’. Small university departments and studies to which a fixed number of students are are already selecting students and since 2014 this has been the case for master students as well. Financing ATWI member Sjoukje Heimovaa said there is too little to distinguish Dutch universities  from each other due to the way they are financed. ‘They are rewarded if their student numbers grow and if they chase as many financial sources for research as possible. This has resulted in institutions that are becoming more and more alike. They also don’t work together enough,’ Heimovaa said. That lack of scientific focus is a threat to Dutch research, the report said. Universities are not concentrating enough on developing their own particular fields of expertise which means top scientific talents do not stay here but go abroad to continue their studies at specialised universities. Universities are also failing to take up the scientific challenges put to them by developments in society, something the ATWI said should become an important factor in financing.  More >

School leaving exam results due today

Some 217,000 secondary school pupils will hear this afternoon if they have passed their final exams or not. Just over half the pupils took vocational exams (vmbo), 62,000 took pre-college havo exams and 42,000 are in vwo classes and hoping to go to university. Last year’s pass rate was 92%. It is a modern tradition in the Netherlands to hang the school bags of the successful teenagers on a flag pole outside the house to mark the end of their school days. Resits for those who did not make the grade take place between June 17 and 20.   More >

75% of foreign students miss Dutch contact

Many foreign students do not feel at home in the Netherlands and over 75% miss having contact with their Dutch counterparts, according to a survey by three student networks - LSVB, ISO and the Erasmus Student Network. 'Foreign students are being actively recruited but once they are in the Netherlands they are confronted with the lack of affordable housing, they don't get Dutch lessons and they find it hard to make contact with their Dutch peers,' said Carline van Breugel of the LSVB. It is the second time the three organisations have carried out a survey of foreign students and this year 1,002 took part, of whom two-thirds came from another EU country. While three quarters miss having contact with the Dutch, 74% struggle with housing and 44% experience stress, the survey showed. At the same time, 62% said they were happy, or very happy, with their social lives. 'I have met a lot of Dutch students but I find it very hard to become close to them or how to actually make friends with them. Almost my entire study is with Dutch students yet I barely speak to them,' one student is quoted as saying. The Netherlands is keen to ensure foreign students remain in the Netherlands after graduating, but research published by Elsevier magazine last week showed that 61% of master's graduates leave within six months. In 2001, that figure was just 45%. Learning Dutch is key to ensuring foreign students can integrate well, the student bodies say. Almost 37% of respondents said they were unhappy at the options offered for learning the language. Some 90,000 foreign students attended courses at Dutch universities or hbo colleges last year and they now account for 11.5% of the student population.  More >