Students: The Netherlands is an overall high performer in PISA 2012 in mathematics, reading and science, although mathematics performance has decreased across PISA cycles. Students’ socio-economic background had a lower impact on performance than the OECD average in PISA 2012. Policies in place aim to increase participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in programmes such as early childhood education and care. Starting at age 12, students can choose from among seven different programmes (the highest number in OECD countries), with flexibility to transfer between them. The proportion of students reported in PISA 2012 as having repeated a grade is above the OECD average. There is open school choice (somewhat restricted by the school guidance given at age 12), with control applied at the local level to mitigate imbalances in school composition. Flexibility, guidance and counselling are available to support Dutch students as they transition into further education and the labour market. Enrolment in vocational education and training (VET) is above the OECD average. Labour market perspectives for young people are positive, with one of the lowest unemployment rates among OECD countries. According to the 2012 OECD Survey of Adult Skills, adults have above-average literacy skills (Figure 1).
Key policy issues
The Netherlands' high education performance and equity can be supported with continued policy efforts to support low performing or disadvantaged schools and students, within the context of system-level characteristics such as academic selection and grade repetition, which can hinder equity and quality. Growing student diversity requires teachers to be able to adapt their practice to meet diverse student needs. In a context of high autonomy for schools, a priority in the Netherlands is to attract, train and retain quality teachers. Another priority is to strengthen the steering capacity and responsibility of school boards so that they can address student needs consistently, develop positive learning environments and use resources more effectively. Better use of results from school, teacher and student assessments can also support school improvement and student learning.
Recent policy responses
Multi-annual voluntary agreements (2012-15) draw from the initiative Drive to Reduce Dropout Rates (2006), which aims to improve student outcomes through various initiatives to reduce the proportion of early school leavers. The Vocational Professionalism Agenda (Focus op Vakmanschap, 2011-15) aims to strengthen the focus on resilience to adapt to changes in the labour market. Several recent initiatives also aim to increase the number of higher education graduates.
The Netherlands achieved above-average scores in mathematics, reading and science on PISA 2012. Across PISA cycles, performance in reading and science remained unchanged, while mathematics performance decreased. The impact of students’ socio-economic status on mathematics scores (11.5%) decreased between 2003 and 2012 and remains below the OECD average of 14.8%. Among participating OECD countries, literacy proficiency among adults (16-65 year-olds) is above average on the 2012 OECD Survey of Adult Skills.
In the Netherlands, the share of 25-34 year-olds with at least an upper secondary education is around the OECD average (83% compared to the OECD average of 82%). The proportion of 25-34 year-olds with a tertiary education in the Netherlands is 43%, four percentage points above the OECD average of 39% in 2012 (Figure 2).
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OECD work on education: www.oecd.org/education
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