Dutch test

Teaching to the test is the norm in the Netherlands, writes Joep of Dancing Crocodile.  Students conclude secondary education by taking the national exam. If the don’t pass it, they retake it the next year. He’s all for it.

The results for the exam are proof of the student’s level per subject, regardless the school where he has studied. The results of all students per school give relevant information about the school’s efficacy. And I have to accept that the results of my students at the national exam for my subject gauge the quality of my teaching.

It goes without saying that school has to offer more than just a highway towards an exam. The exam result is only one of many features that make a good school. But our national exam definitely makes the teacher accountable for intellectual attainment measured with a yardstick that is not homespun.

I do not trust teachers, nor schools, for that matter, to devise their own goals and have them decide which level is sufficient. I would not entrust myself with such responsibility.

I have to deliver the goods and services that society needs. School is not a playground in which we are given leeway to implement our best intentions for the benefit of other people’s children. Education at school is an essential part of the real world.

Joep teaches art and design in an English immersion school. Note that English is his third language after Low Saxon and Dutch. And he does not, as he fears, write “Dunglish.”

About Joanne


  1. CarolineSF says:

    Here’s another piece of information about the Netherlands school system: Students are tracked at middle-school age into vocational or academic courses. The students on the vocational track graduate from high school after the equivalent of our 10th grade, at age 15 or 16. This is true in other nations too, though I don’t know of any comprehensive info on exactly what other nations or how many. I do know that this is true in Switzerland and Japan as well.

    This means that all those claims that the U.S. has higher dropout rates are fatally confounded — unsound, invalid, false and misleading. For the logic-challenged, let’s review. Netherlands: Some students who leave high school at age 15 or 16 after 10th grade are high school graduates. U.S.: All students who leave high school at age 15 or 16 after 10th grade are dropouts. Not parallel; can’t be compared; apples vs. oranges.

  2. Peace Corps says:

    I wish our system were a little more like the Netherlands’. In my state students are expected to take Algebra 2. Although parents can sign a waiver, they are made to feel that their child will not suceed in life without it. Algebra 2 (and higher) is not for EVERYONE. At some point (sooner than we do now) we should be helping students to the vocational track if they either want that or need it.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I do not trust teachers, nor schools, for that matter, to devise their own goals and have them decide which level is sufficient. I would not entrust myself with such responsibility.

    I’m confused.

    He doesn’t trust teachers. He doesn’t trust schools (by which he presumably means the institutional agglomeration of administrators).

    And he doesn’t even trust himself.

    Who the hell *is* he going to trust to make decisions like this? Why does he think that “the nation” is somehow going to make a better decision than he will? Why does he think “the nation” knows better than teachers? Does he just prefer that the decision is made by faceless bureaucrats so that he doesn’t have to face his distrust of them?

    My point is just this: decisions like the one about what will be taught in schools need to be made, and they need to be made all of the time by all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. There’s no perfect decision-making process, and no perfect “decider” for these sorts of things. Life doesn’t come with an official instruction manual, and putting the decision up behind a curtain doesn’t make it any more or less sound of a decision.

    If a teacher doesn’t trust themselves to make a decision about what children in their society should learn in school, frankly, I don’t see why I should listen to anything else he or she has to say, and I certainly wouldn’t want that teacher teaching my children.

  4. Ex-PhysicsTeacher says:

    I’m 100% behind the Dutchman.

    To his critics:

    Suppose there were no standardized units of measure. Suppose I said that my cousin is “very tall”. Does this have any meaning? My cousin could be 7’2″ or 5’2″, and anything in between.

    Suppose that there was no standard test of visual acuity. People would say “I see well. Trust me. They’re my eyes.” If someone had 20/80 vision from a very early age, how would they even know that their vision is substandard?

    After having attended education school I’m even more skeptical of teachers’ various home grown assessments. Thanks to “alternative assessments” a kid who can’t multiply, but writes a rap song about multiplication, can satisfy some teacher’s requirements and score an A.

    Almost every profession I’ve ever seen employs some sort of standardization to very good effect. Only in teaching is there such rabid and irrational opposition to it.

  5. Michael Lopez,

    Outside of affluent enclaves, the intellectual tenor of our schools is truly lame. So much militates against true learning: vociferous parents of special needs and lazy children who agitate to dumb down curricula, progressive ed foolishness that hobbles the efficacy of teachers, unprincipled principals who do not have a shred of commitment to true education (only the appearance of it), students who naturally want to minimize effort and actively subvert efforts to instill rigor… A set of excellent, rigorous, externally administered exams (like the AP tests, but for every grade level and subject) would be a huge boon to real learning in this country It would certainly give a boost to my flagging efforts to bring academic rigor to my very average California middle school.

    Caroline SF:
    Don’t you think we ought to raise the bar for our students? Do you really think that our kids are being sufficiently challenged and working sufficiently hard?

  6. Erin Johnson says:

    Ben F, Wonderful.. Yet again.

  7. Stuart Buck says:

    Caroline — your information is interesting but completely irrelevant to this post; you might be better off pointing out that the Netherlands have a system of universal vouchers for all students and all schools.


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