25/05/2016 - The Dutch school system is one of the best in the OECD, but raising standards will require further reforms to improve early childhood education and care, minimize the risks of early tracking, and develop teacher professionalism throughout the lifecycle and promote peer collaboration, according to a new OECD report.
Netherlands 2016: Foundations for the Future says that the country should build on its strengths: a strong vocational and training system; a high level of decentralisation balanced by strong accountability mechanisms; school financing that supports disadvantaged students; and a tradition of experimentation and innovation.
But “OECD analysis shows very large performance differences between schools” said Montserrat Gomendio, Deputy Director of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills, presenting the report in a secondary school in Zaandam, The Netherlands, with Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker and State Secretary Sander Dekker. “Improving equity through fair selection and making the tracking system more permeable will be essential to help ensuring consistently high standards across schools”.
The educational quality of early childhood education and care should be improved, says the report. Despite high participation rates, most parents use childcare facilities fewer hours a week than in most OECD countries. A national curriculum framework, higher staff qualifications and more staff training are needed.
The tracking system should be reviewed, as the analysis reveals large overlaps in performances between tracks. The criteria to determine tracking are highly variable and a recent reform that places more emphasis on teacher assessment entails some risks, according to the report. A student’s right to enter a track should be based on a national objective test and requires schools to respect national test standards. It should also be made easier for students to progress and move between tracks through a coherent policy response, including the alignment of curricula of different tracks, more personalised teaching, and reversing the downward trend in the number of larger secondary schools offering all education tracks.
More efforts should be made to attract high performers to the teaching profession, especially as many teachers in The Netherlands are approaching retirement age. A more systematic approach to professional development is needed, together with improved mandatory training for new teachers and greater teacher collaboration between and within schools. For this to happen a leadership strategy is proposed to ensure school leaders continue to develop their capacity and are able to create the conditions for schools to develop as learning organisations.
For further information on Reviews of National Policies for Education: Netherlands 2016 - Foundations for the Future, journalists should contact the OECD Media Office (+ 33 1 45 24 97 00).