Netherlands 2016

Foundations for the Future

image of Netherlands 2016

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.


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.


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