The PISA results show that in the field of language skills, Dutch youngsters are second in Europe, just behind Finland.
The Netherlands ranked tenth in the world for reading and is still among the top 5 in Europe when it comes to mathematics and science. Worldwide, the Netherlands comes in at eleventh place for both subjects. In recent years, Switzerland, Canada and Japan have overtaken the Netherlands in mathematics.
The government’s ambition is to belong to the top 5 knowledge economies in the world, and to do that students need to be motivated to maximum performance. By implementing a wide range of measures in secondary education, the Minister aims to focus on subjects that determine success in further education and on the job market. More attention to core subjects quite simply frees up more time to teach Dutch, English and mathematics. Performance in these subjects will be tested at the end of the first stage of secondary education, which gives teachers insight into students’ deficits enabling them to work specifically to overcome them. At the end of the second stage, students then sit an arithmetic test.
The Minister also wishes to stretch excellent students. According to the PISA study, the Netherlands owes its good international ranking to the performance of students of lesser and average ability, while that of excellent students is relatively lower than in other countries.
In addition, a new law came into effect in 2010 defining the terms of reference for language and arithmetic skills for primary, general secondary and vocational education at lower and upper secondary levels. The coalition agreement of 2010 identifies these subjects as core subjects in schools and is committed to simplifying the programmes, careers and courses by means of curricular continuity policy. That is why language and arithmetic skills need to be taken to a higher level. To achieve this, the levels students have to attain at each stage of their education has been defined in reference levels. Additional investments are to be made in order to successfully implement the levels and the corresponding tests.
These measures also necessitate improvements in primary education, so that children are better prepared for secondary school. The Minister will therefore be investing more money in the teaching of reading, writing and mathematics and she will be introducing the compulsory final test for primary school children as soon as possible.