Reviews of National Policies for Education

English
ISSN: 
1990-0198 (online)
ISSN: 
1563-4914 (print)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/19900198
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Reviews of National Policies for Education offer customised, in-depth analysis and advice to assist policy makers in developing and implementing education policy. Individual reviews can focus on a specific policy area, a particular level of education or a country’s entire education system. These reviews are conducted at the request of the country concerned.

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Netherlands 2016

Netherlands 2016

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English
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Author(s):
OECD
25 May 2016
Pages:
160
ISBN:
9789264257658 (PDF) ; 9789264258143 (EPUB) ;9789264257610(print)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264257658-en

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How can the Netherlands move its school system “from good to great”? This report draws on international experience to look at ways in which the strong Dutch school system might go further still on the path to excellence. Clearly the Dutch school system is one of the best in the OECD, as measured by PISA and PIAAC and is also equitable, with a very low proportion of poor performers. The report therefore proposes an incremental approach to reform, building on strengths while responding to some emerging challenges. The Netherlands should strengthen the quality of early childhood education and care, revisit policies related to early tracking with more objective testing and track decisions, and enhance the permeability of the system. It should develop the professionalism of teachers and school leaders through enhanced collective learning and working, while at the same time strengthening accountability and capacity in school boards. This report will be valuable not only for the Netherlands, but also to the many other education systems looking to raise their performance who are interested in the example of the Netherlands.

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  • Foreword

    The highest performing education systems across OECD countries combine excellence with equity. The excellence of the Netherlands is evidenced by its strong average performance and few low performers in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). The commitment to further improve education quality is visible at all levels of the education system and beyond. Decentralisation encourages innovative educational practice and facilitates a central government approach that is backed by a widespread commitment to evidence-based policy making. Decentralisation is effectively balanced by strong accountability mechanisms.

  • Executive summary

    The Dutch school system is one of the best in the OECD, as measured by the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). It is also equitable, with a very low proportion of poor performers. Basic skills are very good on average, while the system minimises weak basic skills among teenagers as effectively as the East Asian champions of Japan and Korea. This is supplemented by a strong vocational education and training system with good labour market outcomes. The system is underpinned by: a high level of decentralisation, balanced by a national examination system and a strong Inspectorate of Education; school financing which supports disadvantaged students; experimentation and innovation; and good data and research. Strong stakeholder intermediate institutions inform a lively research and policy debate. However, some challenges remain, and the Netherlands aspires to greater excellence.

  • Assessment and recommendations

    Within broad parameters set by government, schools have extensive freedom, with no national curriculum. In contrast to more "comprehensive" systems, students are "tracked" from around the age of 12. A strong vocational education and training system plays a big role, with good employer links and a dual apprenticeship system, and one of the lowest levels of young people neither employed nor in education or training (NEET) in the OECD. Outcomes, in terms of literacy and numeracy, are very good on average, and the system minimises weak basic skills among teenagers as effectively as the East Asian champions of Japan and Korea, far ahead of most European countries. Education systems thrive on relentless evaluation and self-criticism, and a constant aspiration for improvement and those qualities are found in the Netherlands. The system is underpinned by: a high level of decentralisation, which is balanced by a solid accountability system that includes a national examination and a strong Inspectorate of Education; school financing that supports disadvantaged students; experimentation and innovation; and good data and research. Strong stakeholder intermediate institutions inform a lively research and policy debate.

  • The Dutch education system

    The Dutch education system is a strong performer, with outcomes for cognitive skills that are both strong on average and in terms of equity. These outcomes emerge from a system that balances a high level of decentralisation and school autonomy with a strong set of accountability measures. But challenges remain, and the Netherlands rightly aims high. Early childhood education and care, while extensive, faces quality issues: the integrity of early tracking faces growing difficulties because of variations in the initial track selection, student motivation is low, and there are few really strong performers. As in all countries, the quality of teachers and school leaders is critical to educational performance, but collective learning and working is underdeveloped. School boards are not always as accountable as they should be.

  • Improving quality in early childhood education and care in the Netherlands

    High participation rates and a strong focus on early intervention programmes for vulnerable groups reflect efforts to improve access and provide quality in early childhood education and care (ECEC). However, the quality of ECEC is sometimes too weak and the organisation of provision is fragmented. This chapter examines challenges and solutions for strengthening the quality of ECEC in the Netherlands. It analyses the governance, financing and structural and process quality of different ECEC services and identifies a need to strengthen the quality of ECEC through the development of a national curriculum framework, better skills for ECEC staff, and a move towards a more integrated approach to ECEC provision.

  • Making sense of early tracking in the Netherlands

    The Dutch school system is highly stratified with extensive early tracking. Early tracking is controversial, but student outcomes in the Netherlands are good on average and in terms of equity. However, the integrity of the tracking system is increasingly challenged, with evidence pointing to large student performance differences within educational tracks (programmes), and seeming growing inequity in educational opportunities between disadvantaged and more advantaged students. This chapter analyses the challenges of the system for initial selection and allocation of students into different tracks and proposes options for improvement. It highlights the importance of a national and objective test to determine the initial tracking decision. It also examines ways of improving the permeability of the system through a drastic reduction of down-tracking and grade repetition, and strong differentiated teaching skills to identify strong performers within classrooms and support their potential promotion to a higher track.

  • Building student motivation and pursuing excellence in the Netherlands

    There are growing concerns that some of the most promising students in the Netherlands are not reaching their full potential. Although the Netherlands has a high proportion of top-performers compared to other European countries, there are real challenges of motivation among all groups of Dutch students. Top-performers also lack perseverance and openness to problem solving, despite efforts by the Dutch government to improve the motivation and performance of the country’s most talented students. This chapter examines this challenge by exploring ways to reinforce rewards for excellence at every level of education, and the role of parents in motivating students to strive for excellence in their learning.

  • Enhancing teacher professional development in the Netherlands

    The Netherlands has pursued numerous initiatives to improve the quality and attractiveness of the teaching profession, including the establishment of a teacher’s register, greater salary flexibility and more selective entry into teacher training. While many teachers are approaching retirement age some challenges remain. This chapter examines policies and practices to enhance teacher professionalism and further improve the career structure. It examines the teaching skills of Dutch teachers, their initial education and professional development opportunities, as well as the potential obstacles to participation. It highlights the importance of a life cycle approach to teachers’ professional development that is underpinned by a diversified career structure, and the promotion of collaborative working and learning among other teachers and school leaders.

  • Putting the spotlight on school leaders in the Netherlands

    The quality of school leadership is especially critical in a highly decentralised school system, as in the Netherlands, but it has received relatively little policy attention. Although school leaders usually perform to standard, the evidence suggests that if the Netherlands is to realise its educational ambitions, school leaders’ competences need to be further strengthened. This chapter examines the challenges and solutions for developing high quality school leaders in the Netherlands. It highlights the need for a strategic approach to leadership development that rests on professional collaboration and a culture of continuous improvement. It examines how further developed competence profiles for school leaders could support professional development. In addition, this chapter discusses the need for capacity building of school leaders and leadership teams for conducting school self-evaluations, and for supporting the development of schools into learning organisations.

  • Strengthening accountability and capacity in Dutch school boards

    School boards in the Netherlands enjoy extensive autonomy in various areas and have become increasingly responsible for the quality of education. However, their accountability is open to question. School boards, which vary in scale, sometimes also face significant capacity challenges. This chapter examines the major policy developments and performance of school boards in the Dutch school system. It explores how the accountability of school boards can be improved by making their workings more transparent, and opening up their operations to meaningful challenge. It highlights the importance of strengthened management capacity in school boards, which is balanced by giving more authority to school leaders.

  • Terms of reference: OECD education policy review of the Netherlands

    The OECD Directorate for Education and Skills will perform a review of the Dutch education system. This review is intended to provide policy makers, educators and other stakeholders with an external analysis which combines an international comparative perspective and quality analysis with an independent view.

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