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Reference MBO/BOL4 in the Netherlands
What works well in this scheme? After graduation in MBO*) 69% of the students leave the full time education system, 29% continue their studies in HBO (2% stays in MBO to improve their exam results or to graduate in an other vocational domain) . Labour market perspectives are good for MBO graduates: 4 % of the MBO diploma holders are unemployed. The general unemployment figure in 1999 in the Netherlands is 5% (CBS, 1999).
    Over the last ten years, participa-tion in higher education after graduation in MBO has increased. But recently the figures show a downward tendency due to the good economic situation in the Netherlands and a shortage of manpower. More MBO graduates prefer to enter the labour market in stead of continuing their study in HBO. This tendency particularly shows up in the technical and the agricultural sector, whereas the transfer figures to HBO in the commerce sector stabilised at 32%. This development might indicate that the proportion between educational mobility and occupational mobility is also sensitive to economic fluctuations. 
    In general, the success rate of MBO graduates transferring to HBO is more or less the same as in HAVO (senior general secondary education). However, differences exist between sectors: MBO students from long technical courses have a higher success rate than MBO students from economic/administrative services or social services. Moreover, MBO students from the technical sector show better results in the HBO technical courses compared with HAVO students. A recent study shows that graduates from MBO need less time to finish their HBO study than graduates from HAVO, respectively 48,9 and 51,4 months.**) On the other hand, MBO graduates tend to drop out more from HBO than HAVO graduates.

 *) We will use the old term 'MBO' here. In 1996 the new Adult and Vocational Education Act (WEB) came into force. The abbreviation used in general for secondary vocational education is sbo (secundair beroepsonderwijs). The abbreviation used for courses that give access to higher education is bol-4. Bol stands for 'vocational training pathway' (beroepsopleidende leerweg); '4' stands for the level of education. The first cohort educated under the new structure (bol-4) will graduate in 2000. Therefor we still use the term 'mbo-graduates'. 
**) Linden, A.S.R. van der, Velden, R.K.W. van der (1998). Netto studieduren van hbo'ers met verschillende vooropleidingen. In: LICA-bulletin, jaargang 4.
What are the problems with this scheme?/
What can be learned from other schemes?
(1) In the Netherlands secondary vocational education and general education are two separate routes. The secondary general and the secondary vocational parts of the education system are covered by two different laws. Within the vocational system general subjects as Dutch language, English language, social studies, are included in the curriculum. Compared to the same subjects in the general education system, general subjects in vocational education are much more oriented towards professional needs and labour market requirements. The question is whether this separation between general and vocational should be regarded as negative. We could argue that vocational education within a separate system has good opportunities for full development without competing general education all the time. 
    (2) Vocational education at secondary level under the new act (WEB) differentiates between four levels within secondary vocational education (the old structure differentiated between two levels). Only level 4 courses (middle management courses) give access to higher professional education. Up to now it is uncertain whether this might lead to a decrease of student transfers to HE. In general level 4 courses are regarded as high level courses, more severe than the old mbo-programmes. Another open question is the consequence of the fact that for mbo graduates who continue their study in HBO courses in the same professional field, the remaining study time is three in stead of four years. This measure came into force in 1998. As a consequence of this measure several mbo- and hbo schools together decided to design seven-year-courses. 
    (3) An interesting new development in higher education in the Netherlands is the start of a few pilots within higher professional education particularly designed for students coming from an apprenticeship route. Under the new act graduates from highly specialised courses within the apprenticeship system also have access to higher professional education. Because these graduates mostly are adults, working during the day, HE need to develop adjusted courses with a dual character (combining learning in the workplace with study within the school). It is still uncertain whether HE will succeed in designing these courses and whether students from the apprenticeship system are interested in HE .Perhaps the Netherlands might with respect to this point learn from examples in Germany, Austria and Denmark.
    (4) MBO-HE co-operation has improved the last couple of years. On the other hand higher professional education still has a very academic tradition which in a way does not 'fit' to students coming from a vocational pathway. The Minister of Education recently opened the possibility to integrate schools for higher professional with Universities. On one hand we could expect that higher professional courses under an integrated HE regime need to stress their professional character in order to distinct themselves from academic courses. On the other hand we could fear that higher professional education will become more academic and less attractive and achievable for students coming from a vocational route. The Netherlands could learn with respect to this point from countries in which an integrated HE system already exists.
Further reading > Analysis of scheme > topic study > National conclusions
Author Trudy Moerkamp & Eva Voncken (December 1999)

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