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Conclusions (> Conclusies)
National conclusions update: The Netherlands

Trudy Moerkamp & Eva Voncken
SCO Kohnstamm Instituut, Universiteit van Amsterdam 

December 1999 

Reference to national case study on NL: MBO/BOL4

1 In most European countries integration of general education and vocational education is an 'hot item', in particular with regard to attractiveness and status of VET. In the Netherlands both routes are separated and covered, since 1996, by different education acts. 
    In spite, or perhaps thanks to, this separation, vocational education at senior secon-dary level (sbo) is rather successful in the Netherlands: about half of the 16-19 year olds attend this type of education. In particular graduates of the levels 3 and 4 in sbo acquire good positi-ons at the labour market. Perhaps the fact that MBO*) always had a double qualifying function might explain why students (and their parents) consider both general and vocational educa-tion as a good option. 
    But the comparison of education systems in the partnership also raises a more nega-tive hypotheses: because in the Netherlands education at junior secondary level is not integrated and comprehensive, there is an early selection (at the age of 12-14). At the moment there are no data available in the Netherlands on choices and preferences of students and their parents that could prove or disprove this hypotheses.
    New developments in junior secondary education (age 12-16) will even deepen the gap between vocational education at one hand and general education at the other hand. From August 1999, the new VMBO (pre-vocational secondary education) replaces both VBO and MAVO. There will be a choice of four learning pathways: theoretical (MAVO), vocational (available at two levels) and combined theoretical and vocational. The main goal of this operation is to improve the connection between VMBO and secondary vocational education. The new VMBO is regarded as the main route to secondary vocational education. Transfers from VMBO (the theoretical pathway) to secondary general education will be discouraged. 

2 Many European countries (Sweden, Norway, France, England) reduced the number of occupational specialisation's in VET. As a consequence they broadened VET. In the Netherlands there still are many VET courses and specialisation's (more than 200). With regard to transfer into higher education and with regard to developments in labour organization and the labour market, experiences with broad vocational educa-tion in other European countries are important for the Netherlands. The question is however, how to design broad vocational education without becoming pre-vocational. Some countries (England, Sweden, Norway) in their national case studies stress the point that VET diplomas should offer opportunities for graduates to enter the labour market. Making VET more pre-vocational instead of vocational might stimulate stu-dents just to use VET as an entry into higher education. 

3 Although in the Netherlands integration of vocational education and general educa-tion is not an issue, we would like to stress at this point the importance of a (re)opening of the discussion with respect to integration. 
 Compared to Sweden, Norway, England and Finland students in the Netherlands have very little possibilities to design their own pathway through the education system. Students in the Netherlands are very much pinned down by their (early) choice between voca-tional and general education and by their choice within the VET system for an occu-pation. 
   A more flexible system probably could be helpful to solve problems in both the VET and general education system. For instance it could be helpful for students in VET to prepare themselves for transfer into higher education. And it could help students in the general system with regard to occupational choice and preparation. With respect to this point the Finnish example of combined vocational and general programs are interesting for the Netherlands. In some Regional Vocational Colleges (ROC's) in the Netherlands students actually have the opportunity of a combined vocational-general pathway. Not as a result of co-operation between general and vocational schools, as is the case in Finland. But through the fact that Regional Vocational Colleges also provide (second chance) general courses for adults. Up to now only a few ROC's make use of this possibility. 

4 In particular Germany, England, Norway and Sweden have good experiences with new teaching methods in vocational education (project work, integrated learning, ac-tive learning). The national case study of England stressed some disadvantages of modular methods. In the Netherlands traditional modular teaching methods, used in most vocational courses, are also criticised. Many Regional Vocational Colleges started to innovate their programs. In particular innovations as problem based learning and independent learning are more and more applied. With respect to these methods the Netherlands could benefit from the experiences of other European countries, also with regard to the assessment of these new learning and teaching methods. 

5 Secondary vocational education in the Netherlands has three main goals: qualificati-on for the labour market, qualification for further education and qualification for citi-zenship and social participation. 
   Despite these three goals, Dutch VET courses can be characterized as rather pragmatic and skill and labour market oriented. The third main goal has been in danger to be overlooked for the last ten years. With respect to this point the Nether-lands could learn from Norway, Sweden, France , Portugal and Germany. In these countries more at-tention has been given, not only in general but also in vocational edu-cation, to gen-eral aspects of education: personal development, cultural and social education. In particular in the Netherlands, where half of the adolescents attend voca-tional educa-tion, more attention should be paid to social integration, citizenship and social/cultural education. We quote with respect to this point a paragraph from another Leonardo report. The paragraph refers to the Dutch situation. "The students future life is not only a working life. And moreover it is not inconceivable that general cultural capital in stead of broad job skills will become more and more important at the labour market. Vocational education still has to prove that passing on social and cultural capital is also possible by working in a vocational context and by learning by doing. On the other hand we might wonder if general education succeeds in educating critical and independent citizens. In that respect both systems have to develop new styles of learning and teaching."**)

*) Under the new qualification structure that came into force in 1997 the new name for mbo is bol-4. The name for secondary vocational education in general is sbo
**) Trudy Moerkamp and Eva Voncken (1999). The Liberal Dimension in Secondary Vocational Education in the Netherlands. Anton Trant (ed.) Reconciling Liberal & Vocational Education. Report of the European Union Leonardo da Vinci Research Project on Promoting the Attractiveness of Vocational Education (PAVE). Dublin, CDU.

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