Education in the Netherlands
The Dutch school is built around a common school. Students usually start when they are 4-year-olds. However, it is only a requirement that they start as 5-year-olds. There are 12 years of compulsory schooling. Students do not need to go to school but must receive education. In Denmark we also have compulsory education.
The Dutch education is divided into three phases. Students start in primary school as they are 4 or 5 years old and continue until they are about 12 years old. Then they continue to secondary education for 4-6 years and finally they go to higher education in 1-6 years.
The highest level of education in The Netherlands is a Ph.D., which you get when you are around 30 years if you walk the straight path, which few do.
It is free to go to school in The Netherlands as it is in Denmark. However there are charges if you go to private school.
The Dutch primary school consists of 8 steps or classes. The mandatory teaching begins from step 2 when the child turns 5, but almost all children start at step 1 when they are 4 years old. Steps 1 and 2 can be compared with the Danish kindergarten class. Students are first taught to read, calculate and write from step 3. The 8 years of primary school ends with a final exam, which along with teachers' assessments will determine the student's ongoing education.
After primary school students continue to secondary education. There are three different secondary schools: Vmbo, Havo and Vwo. Students attend school in 4-6 years, whichever direction they choose/are chosen for them.
Vmbo is the education where vocational and practical education is combines with teaching in languages, mathematics, history and science. It is a 4-year education and it has four different levels that differ by the degree of practical work and theory. About 60% of the students of each year choose this education and many of them continue on the next level Mbo which is a higher education.
Havo means continued higher education. The education lasts 5 years. The first 3 years are the basic years, which all follow the same teaching with language, mathematics, history, art and science. In the last 2 years, students choose one of four directions, each targeted to specific programs. They can choose: Culture and Society, Economy and Society, Science and Health (which primarily is directed at medical school) or Science (which primarily is aimed at engineering).
Student should at the same time choose 1-3 elective. It is compulsory to have two languages which are German and usually English. Mathematics is also compulsory, but students can choose different levels.
Vwo resembles to Havo. Vwo consists of the same four directions, though at a higher level. It is a 6-year education. The first 3 years are basic years like Havo and then students choose a direction that they study another 3 years. Vwo is divided into two studies: Atheneum and Gymnasium. The two studies are virtually identical except that Latin and Greek are compulsory at Atheneum for the first 3 years (basic years).
To get access to higher education the student must have a degree from Vmbo, Havo or Vwo. There are three directions of higher education:
Mbo is directed at a vocational and practical education. Most students who have taken a Vmbo continues with this education. The Mbo education is a 1-4 year education. If students spend 4 years on the Mbo it also gives access to the next level of Hbo.
Hbo targets a bachelor or master degree. Access to this study requires either a degree from Mbo (if you've studied in 4 years), Havo or Vwo. The study lasts for 4 years if students take a bachelor degree or 6 years if students take a master's degree.
Wo is a university education. This is the highest education you can get in the Netherlands. An education at Wo-level offers a bachelor's or master's degree, which can later be upgraded to a PhD. Access to this study requires a Vwo exam or an Hbo bachelor.
Thoughts about the school system in Denmark and Holland
In Denmark the classes have a common teaching level while they in the Netherlands divide the students according to their academic levels. In the Danish system you can risk that the weakest students and best students get bored when the academic level is not adapted to these students’ educational skills. According to Csikszentmihaly it is important to have a fine balance between the academic level and the students’ educational skills to get flow in every lesson.
In Denmark, the teacher has a responsibility that all students are challenged at their level, in the form of differentiated teaching. It requires that the teacher must be able to accommodate more and devote more time to prepare, to create educational on several levels. Consultant for Arbejderbevægelsens erhvervsråd Niels Glavind launched in 2005 "the classmate effect" and defines it this way: "(...) the fact that a large proportion of students from resource advantaged homes can make the educational level better, while a large share of students from disadvantaged homes conversely, can pull the educational level down. (2005)
"With that thought it means that students with a strong background could help the academically weaker students to a higher academic level. This is achieved with the Danish school system where there is a broader academic average level for Danish students. There may be a risk to students at the age of 12 years, can be locked at a low level of education as there is less requirement for a significant academic improvement because levels are consistently lower than average. According to our Dutch fellow students, it seems rare that students move around on their education levels.
The Danish school system tries to create equality among students by comparing them in mixed level classes until they complete primary school. In contrast, in Holland they are creating educational inequality by dividing the students at their level. It can help to promote social heritage, where students with highly educated parents have better condition to help with homework and support in school. Those students who have resource weak parents have a harder time getting up on a higher educational level, because of lack of support from home or parents may have difficulty in helping with homework. The academically best students are in the Danish school system designed to help the weaker students, and gives the students a bigger chance to break the social inheritance than in Holland, where students are segregated.
You can always discuss the pros and cons of both school systems, even without any definitive answers. It is the same for both school systems that have a common starting sequence, but there the similarities cease as well. In Denmark priority is a large "middle group" of students to compare students and care similarity among them. This is where the teacher's job to inspire and stimulate the individual students' academic needs. The Dutch model divides its students into skill levels, and ensures that individual students receives the proper educational training. This means that the clever students are much better than the remaining pupils in this model. The weaker students will receive training which is equivalent to their level, but it is Glavind's contention that the students will lack the positive classmate effect from the "real" talented students who will be able to raise their educational level.
According to the latest Pisa (2009) study is the Dutch school number 12 on the list, where the Danish are in place number 17. Here you can look at whether this is because the Dutch school has many students who are very clever, and less as we would describe as "middle students." In the Danish model, we usually the middle group of students, and it can help to influence the outcome.
Our experience with the Dutch school system has opened our eyes to other possibilities. We realize that it is important that we have to be critically about our own school system, and we always have to be open to new inspiration, and be willing to adjust and improve the system.
By: Christian, Catrine and Sofie.
Sørensen, Morten 25-4-2005 Læringspotentialer i træningsprogrammer, Den didaktiske anvendelse af træningsprogrammer i skolen er afgørende for elevernes læringsudbytte. EMU. UNI C. Danmarks it-center for uddannelse og forskning. http://design.emu.dk/artikler/0517-traeningsprogr.html
Glavid, Niels 2005. citat af Arbejderbevægelsens Erhvervsråd (AE) “Skoler og karakterer – effektivitet og klassekammerateffekt” 2005. Taget fra artiklen “Konkurrencestatens folkeskole” 19.2.2011 Raport fra Ruc. Citat fra