In a recent letter to parliament, Minister for Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven shared her political vision of internationalisation of senior secondary VET and higher education. She advocated that internationalisation should become an objective of each vocational education and training (VET) programme and institution. Since 2017, one of the aims of the Confidence in the future coalition agreement has been to stimulate international mobility.

Between 2013 and 2015, the percentage of senior secondary VET students participating in external international mobility projects was increased to 7%. The Minister set as a new target increasing external mobility from 7% to 10% over the next five years.

In recent years, many companies abroad offering placements to Dutch VET students have been formally accredited as work placement companies by the Dutch Cooperation Organisation for Vocational Education, Training and the Labour Market (SBB). As defined by Dutch law, accreditation is a prerequisite for recognising the time spent in a company as training time. However, according to those involved, the accreditation process is time-consuming; the minister promised to simplify it. There will also be consideration of whether legal limitations for examination abroad can be resolved. Other subjects that will be tackled in the near future include the mutual recognition of VET diplomas in the Dutch-German border region and Dutch language requirements for foreign VET students.

The increasing use of English as language of instruction in higher education programmes could reduce their accessibility for Dutch-speaking students. In response to recent discussions on such use of English, the minister stated that there must be room for variety in the use of educational languages in the Netherlands, including senior secondary VET. However, the choice of language (such as English) should not be a barrier for VET students to progress to Higher Education. To guarantee accessibility, the minister will amend the Higher Education and Scientific Research Act (WHW) and the Adult Education and Vocational Education Act (WEB).

The minister also saw opportunities for further internationalisation of senior secondary VET, focusing on stronger regional (cross-border) cooperation. The international skills of VET students are becoming more important for employers, for example in the agricultural sector. In order to strengthen student international competences, VET schools can seek cooperation with regional business communities and neighbouring education institutions.

If VET internationalisation is broadly defined and carefully carried out, the quality of education will be improved. To get more insight into potential effects of the internationalisation-policy, a research project will be commissioned focusing on the effects of internationalisation in the quality of senior secondary VET, higher professional education, and academic higher education.

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