unit 1 of 5
framework of the scheme
The national case
study in the Netherlands focused on MBO schools which offer three and four
year school based vocational courses at senior secondary level. These courses
qualify young people of 16-20 primarily for employment at middle-management
level in four sectors: technology, agriculture, health care & social
services and commerce.
From 1996, Dutch vocational education at senior secondary level has faced
rather big changes. The Adult and Vocational Act (WEB) came into force
in January 1996. This new law aims at harmonising all the various types
of vocational and adult education into a single statutory framework. At
the heart of the Adult and Vocational Education Act is a national qualification
structure for vocational education, into which a new educational model
has been incorporated. The levels of qualification are in line with the
European SEDOC system.
The programmes within the qualification structure consist of two different
(a) a vocational
training pathway (BOL), in which the percentage of vocational practical
training is between 20 and 60% (comparable to the present MBO);
(b) an apprenticeship
training pathway (BBL), in which the percentage of vocational practical
training exceeds 60% (comparable to the apprenticeship system).
The vocational training pathways at level 4 (middle management) give access
to higher education and are comparable to the 'old' MBO courses. According
to the new qualification structure, higher education (HBO) should also
be accessible for those coming from a dual (specialised apprenticeship)
route. Pilots started in 1998 concerning HBO courses for people with an
apprenticeship diploma (at specialist level). These will be evening courses
or part time courses because most of these apprenticeship graduates are
unit 2 of 5
features of the scheme
MBO/BOL courses cover
occupational fields within four sectors: the technical; agriculture; health
care and social services; and administration/commercial services/trade.
MBO/BOL offers relatively broad courses, even more so if compared to apprenticeship
MBO/BOL consists of courses at different levels which vary in duration
from one to four years. The Dutch study focuses on the courses at level
4 of the qualification structure. Most of these courses have a duration
of four years. The courses cover occupational fields within the technical
sector, agriculture, health care & social services and commerce. They
include periods of training on the job (in the 3th and/or 4th year), mostly
involving two or three different placements. Many courses are modular,
integrating the various general and vocational subjects and learning targets.
In the last two years many vocational colleges made efforts to innovate
the curriculum and teaching styles. In particular integration of the curriculum
through problem based learning became very popular. Up to now there is
no overall picture of how many schools innovated their curriculum and to
what extent. Some sectors decided to tackle the problem at national level.
For instance, in the building sector and the health care sector a new,
completely problem based curriculum has been developed. In this curriculum
general subjects and vocational subjects are integrated.
unit 3 of 5
/ Map / Index
concepts underlying the scheme
MBO has in fact a
threefold qualifying function: acting as a labour market qualification,
a social qualification and a transfer qualification. Some courses, therefore,
offer extra activities in addition to their regular programme for students
wishing to proceed in HBO. These extra activities consist mainly of additional
subject matter in general and theoretical subjects. They are being formalised
because of the development of transfer attainment targets. However, all
MBO graduates will keep the right to proceed to HBO, a right which applies
to students who have not attended a transfer programme. However, students
who do attend transfer programmes are expected to have better chances in
HBO. In practice, students completing the regular programme still achieve
a double qualification. Students who attend the regular programme are considered
to be acceptably qualified for transfer to higher vocational education
as well as to employment. Both vocational and general subjects are considered
to be relevant.
Since 1998 the study time for MBO graduates who continue their study in
domain related areas in HBO has been reduced to three years. The assumption
is that these students could benefit in their subsequent studies from their
practical experience and domain knowledge acquired in MBO.
Students themselves consider MBO a good preparation for HBO courses. Graduates
from MBO seem to be more satisfied on this matter than graduates from general
education, although they feel that MBO courses should stress subject matter
knowledge to a greater extent (putting greater emphasis upon languages,
maths, study skills), while putting less emphasis on the practical orientation.
MBO schools consider both vocational and general subjects to be relevant
with respect to transfer to HBO, although vocational subjects are regarded
as less important.
unit 4 of 5
implications of the scheme
The double qualification
function in MBO is divided into two parts:
(a) the regular
programme, consisting of vocational and social cultural qualifications;
this is the ‘standard’ programme, which gives students the formal right
to enter HBO;
(b) the enrichment
programme, which consists of qualifications which are directly and specifically
aimed at transfer, offering students a better chance of success in HBO.
(c) the enrichment
programme, which consists of qualifications which are directly and specifcally
aimed at transfer, offering students a better chance of success in HBO.
MBO students have the opportunity to obtain a specific HBO-transfer certificate.
The HBO certificate
consists in the first place of common subjects in all courses. The qualification
will include the attainment targets of the Dutch and English languages
and ‘general skills’. ‘General skills’ include: working systematically,
reflecting on work methods and co-operating with others. According to the
Working Group that designed these attainment targets, ‘general skills’
should be related to subjects like mathematics or science.
In the second place
the MBO-HBO progression certificate will contain MBO-HBO domain-related
qualifications. Similar to the domains in (senior level) general education,
four domains have been distinguished: a socio-cultural domain, economics,
and nature & health, nature & technology.
unit 5 of 5
of the scheme's effect
from MBO, 69% of students leave the full time education system, 29% continue
their studies in HBO (and 2% stay in MBO to improve their exams results
or to graduate in another domain). Labour market prospects are good for
MBO graduates: in 1997 only 4.6% of the MBO diploma holders were unemployed.
The general unemployment figure in 1997 in the Netherlands was 5.6%.
Over the years, participation in higher education after graduating in MBO
has increased. This applies to all groups of students within MBO (not only
the HAVO graduates, but the MAVO and VBO graduates as well). Recently the
figures show a downward tendency due to the good economic situation in
the Netherlands and a shortage of manpower, which has led more MBO graduates
to enter the labour market directly.
MBO students who continue their studies in HBO tend to go on with a course
in the same sector (about 84% of all MBO students do so, with 16% changing
fields). In general, the success rate of MBO graduates transferring to
HBO is more or less the same as those transferring from 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 (1998) 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 are
more likely to drop out from HBO than HAVO graduates.