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Netherlands:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

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Netherlands:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

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Netherlands:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Netherlands:National Reforms in Higher Education

Netherlands:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Netherlands:European Perspective







Strengthen cooperation and protect specialist craftsmanship

Newsitem, March 2017

The Minister of education thinks MBO schools (vocational education) must continue to innovate, collaborate and ensure a broad and diverse range of programs. Therefore, a bill is introduced in March, to facilitate collaboration and protect small and unique courses. In this way, valuable (small) programs can be saved.

The coming years MBO must deal with a decrease in the number of students. To maintain a broad range of training/courses, cooperation between vocational schools must be made easier.

  • Therefor the Minister includes the cooperation college (Samenwerkingscollege) in the law. Within the collaboration college two or more institutions can offer training together.
  • For training/courses that threaten to disappear it will also be made possible to award an exclusive right. If necessary, the Minister may also choose to provide additional funding for these programs.

In this way the Minister wants to ensure that institutions can provide valuable small and unique course (such as training for piano technicians), also in the future.

Protecting small and unique courses

These small and unique courses are hit harder by the shrinkage than programs with many students. For institutions it is often a difficult decision to continue with the programs, also business economics considerations play a role in this decision. The Minister of education wants to maintain these kind of programs. With the exclusive right an institution gets a guarantee that it remains the only institution for a period of five years that may provide this kind of training (small courses).

Encourage cooperation

Another measure in the bill is that it will be made easier for schools in MBO to offer courses together (cooperation colleges – Samenwerkingscollege).

  • This measure is also intended, despite the declining numbers of students the coming years, to keep the supply of training in the region at a high level.
  • Cooperation is not only a response to the shrinkage, but pooling knowledge can also strengthen the innovative potential/strength of VET (MBO). By combining knowledge and experience VET schools can further improve the quality of education, encourage innovation and boost their role as knowledge partner in the region.

More freedom for Vocational education and traning in the region

News item, February 2017

Vocational education and training (MBO) in the region will obtain more freedom to deviate from rules. Schools and employers often know what is needed to provide good studies for students in the region. Therefore they deserve more freedom to shape their education, according to minister Bussemaker (education).

The condition that has been imposed for the extra freedom is that the stakeholders within the school and region should agree and the quality of the school fulfils its obligations. According to the minister, rules must serve education. Therefore, space in laws and regulations is provided, so that schools can deviate from national standards.

The minister of education already loosened the reins at schools that have proven that they can handle the extra freedom. Schools can deviate from the 1000- hours education (norm) per year. The minister made it also possible to vary in the content of the studies with the introduction of optional subjects.

Flexible rules

For now it is still arranged by law how long a study career will take. With flexible rules it could be easier to go faster through training and encourage mobility within the school system. More flexibility encourages students to study in practical ways. Work- based learning programmes raise the chances for students to the labor- market. To make it more attractive for employers to offer a work placement, the government makes an exception for[BBL students] at increasing the legal minimum wage.

Mixture of practice and theory
The minister of education also wants to offer an alternative for the choice between BBL (working four days, one day at school) and between BOL (working one to three days, two to four days at school). It should be made easier for a school to make a tailor-made mix of practice and theory. For example in the healthcare there are various experiments to combine district teachers who teach on location. In this way, students can easier combine work and learning. According to the minister, also other sectors need to get this freedom.


From 2017: student travel card for MBO students under 18 and a bigger say for all students

News item, December 2016

The New Year will bring some important changes for pupils and students. They will have more rights and more say. For the 120,000 students below the age of 18 doing vocational training (BOL) at schools for secondary vocational education (MBO), 1 January 2017 is an important date. From then on, they will have the right to a student travel card. Before that date, MBO students were only eligible for a travel card once they had turned 18. Introduction of the travel card for BOL students under 18 was agreed as part of the student finance reforms. The New Year also starts off well for students serving on the board of an organisation. They may claim exemption from tuition fees for up to one year, but remain entitled to a student travel card and student finance.

Having a say

From 2017, pupils and students will have more influence on how their school, college or university is run.

  • For example, as of 1 January MBO schools must obtain consent from their student councils on matters relating to educational expenses. This means that students will have a say in which teaching materials are made compulsory. The aim is to keep costs for students under control.
  • Throughout the education sector, participation councils will have influence on the appointment of members of the school board. As of 1 January, they will have a say in both appointments and dismissals.
  • In higher education, selection committees must include a student and a member of staff. Participation councils may also issue an advisory opinion on the criteria that candidates for the school board must meet. These criteria will be made public from now on. To enable participation councils in higher education to do their job properly they will be given a budget for training. The Executive Board will be obliged by law to provide the participation council with all the information it needs and to do so promptly. The Supervisory Board will also monitor the Executive Board more closely and is obliged to report any suspected cases of mismanagement to the inspectorate.

Budgetary changes

  • The funding of schools that teach newcomer refugee children will change. Many of these children move several times from municipality to municipality, changing schools each time. The new funding model takes account of this. The number of reference dates on which newcomers are counted has been doubled to four a year.
  • Funding of PhDs at universities is to be cut. The bonus a university receives for conferring a doctorate will now be limited to no more than 20% of the annual funding they receive based on the number of PhDs awarded.
  • Schools confronted in the next few months with teachers on sick leave will temporarily have more scope to take on supply teachers.

Offering studies together for MBO-schools becomes much easier

News item, November 2016

It will be much easier for MBO-institutions (institutions for vocational education) to offer courses together. To this end, the Ministerial Council has, upon a proposal from Dutch Minister Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science, adopted with bill “samenwerkingscollege” (cooperation colleges).

The government wants to prevent that the decline of the number of pupils that vocational education will face, leads to a decrease of the training offer in the region. Therefore, it will be made possible for MBO-institutions to offer courses together in the form of cooperation colleges. Additional advantage is that in this way schools in vocational education can bundle their knowledge to contribute to innovative vocational education.

  • The number of students in vocational education is expected to be lower in 2030 than today. Shrinking rural regions, such as South Limburg and the East Groningen, will probably be confronted by a decrease of pupil numbers.
  • Therefore, MBO-institutions will be forced to look for ways to maintain courses and prevent the impoverishment of the educational offer. Offering courses together is a solution to this.
  • It is expected that this can provide a solution for especially expensive, technological courses.

The Ministerial Council has adopted to send the bill for advice to the Council of State. The text of the bill and of the advice of the Council of State will be made public at submission at the Lower House of Parliament.

More than €40 million for better transition vocational education to the labor market in the region

News item, October 2016

16 cooperative projects concerning in vocational education throughout the Netherlands will receive €40 million to improve the transition from education to the labor market. This will give schools more opportunity to give innovations place in their educational programs together with companies. 

Dutch Minister Bussemaker has announced which projects receive money from the fourth round of the regional investment fund vocational education. Therefore, she makes  €12,8 million available, the labor market and the regional authorities add to this amount up to over €40 million.

Overview accepted projects
The proposal for this round features among others technology and the transition on the labor market for vulnerable young people.

  1. Such as ROC Nijmegen (Regional Training Centre) which focusses on innovation within an career in logistics along with logistics companies  in the region.
  2. With the fund, ROC of Flevoland wants to graduate inter alia 100 extra technicians within the PPS TechPack.
  3. The Drenthe college wants to ensure, along with institutions and companies in the region, that care training courses better meet the specific needs in the region, such as the ageing population and the dejuvenation.
  4. And the Leidse instrument makers School wants to ensure a vocational course which focusses on instrumentation and parts for the aerospace and astronomy.
  5. In addition, there are a number of applicants focusses on entrance education, such as the Gilde courses which in co-creation with the labor market will shape the entrance course for vulnerable young people, non-Dutch speakers and the long-termed unemployed. In this way, courses can respond quickly to the regional need of the labor market.
  6. You can find all accepted project proposals in this overview (only available in Dutch).

The assessment of the applications was done by an independent assessment committee under the instruction of Arie Kraaijeveld. The commission consists of experts from (vocational) education and the labor market.

Next application period

  • In the period 2014-2017, Minister Bussemaker makes a total of around €100 million available for innovative cooperation in vocational education. Thereof is until now around  €65 million is allocated.
  • The allocation has the explicit condition that the grant will be supplemented by regional authorities and the labor market with two-third co-financing.

Next year, partnerships of schools and companies have two opportunities to hand in a plan for the fund. The next application period is January 2017.

First Chamber agrees with bill for better accessibility vocational education

News item, October 2016

From study year 2018/19, students with the right pre-education will have the right to be admitted to a mbo-course (vocational education) of their choice. The First Chamber agrees with the legislative proposal ‘early registration date for and right to admission to vocational education’.

  • The law arranges also the registration date for vocational education. This will be 1 April, so that students who have registered themselves by that date, will obtain the right for study advice and so that students will get a binding advice within one year.
  • MBO (students in vocational education) will get better (study choice) guidance with the transition from VMBO to MBO through the measures which are taken by Minister Bussemaker. Too many students drop out at the transition to MBO, during the so-called ‘’summer drop-out’’, or in the first MBO-year.
  • The measures are crucial for the striving of Minister Bussemaker to improve the transition between secondary education, vocational education and higher education.

In order to obtain their right for admission, students must sign up on time and participate in compulsory intake activities. Only in exceptional, and certain limited circumstances students can soon be rejected, for example if a course gets too many applications.

In addition, for some courses, additional admission requirements (for example for a sport course) are possible and students can be rejected who don’t have to pass a start qualification anymore and who have a negative binding recommendation for three or more courses or students who have still have not obtained a mbo-diploma after 6 years.

The law will be effective as per 1 August 2017 so that institutions, schools in secondary education and students have the time to prepare themselves for the submission date of 1 April 2018.

30.000th application OV-card for underage students in vocational education

News item, September 2016

Already 30.000 underage MBO-students (in vocational education) have submitted an application for a student travel product. From 1 January 2017 onwards, they can travel for free with public transportation.

About 120.000 underage MBO-students who follow a practical training, will be able to make use of the student travel product. The expectation is that approximately 100.000 of these young people will also apply for the product and use it. If these students apply this as quickly as possible, they can use this arrangement guaranteed from 1 January 2017 on. Underage MBO-students who are eligible for the travel product will receive a letter from DUO.

‘’We ask students to choose a study programme consciously. They should therefore be mobile, so that they can also study or follow an internship outside their residence. An OV-card is part of this process, also for MBO-students under the age of 18. Students request this for a long time. It is good that there are now opportunities and I call upon all students who are entitled to this to report themselves as soon as possible’’, says Minister Bussemaker.

An online campaign in which ‘vloggers’ point out this possibility to young people should stimulate as many young people to apply for the travel product.

Dutch minister to compensates school fees for minor students in vocational education

News item June 2016

  • Dutch minister Bussemaker frees up 5 million to meet parents with a low-income and underage pupils in vocational education in their school fees. The compensation is intended for pupils with a school-based vocation training (BOL).  The coalition agreement determined that the compensation should merge in the school fees for the child benefit.
  • From 1 January 2017 onward, minor students with a school-based vocational training (BOL) can use a mobility card (OV-card).

€43,5 million to strengthen transition vocational education to the labor market

News item, May 2016

17 cooperative projects concerning vocational schools throughout the Netherlands will receive €43, 5 million to improve the transition from education to the labor market.

Today, the Dutch minister of education, Ms. Bussemaker has announced that 17 projects will receive funding from the regional investment fund. The aim of the fund is to prepare pupils in vocational education even better on the current and the future labor market, by allowing them to work with state of art-techniques- and methods during their study.

Common theme in the awarded proposals is the social perspective. There are 6 projects in the fields of health care and well-being and 3 courses are putting emphasis on vulnerable young people, good career guidance and training and good transition to courses at HBO-level (university of applied sciences).  In addition, many engineering projects were awarded that are urgently needed from the business community. 

‘Innovative sector’
In 2014, minister Bussemaker has launched a regional investment fund for vocational education to improve the transition between education and the labor market. The resources can be used to for example to invest in equipment and educational methods according to the most recent state of technology and the newest and the latest insights of interfaces amongst disciplines, so that pupils are well-prepared entering the labour market.  This is of general interest. Therefore, both the regional business community and regional authorities contribute in the form of a matching. In 4 years’ time, 300 million will become available through the regional investment fund.

 Later this year, the next application period will be start with an amount of €20 million.


New optional subjects in MBO

News item February 2016

From August 1, 2016 students in vocational education and training can choose out of more than 400 new optional subjects within their training, to prepare themselves better for the labor market (of tomorrow). The Minister of Education requested schools for vocational education and training and the labour market to have a look at which special knowledge and skills students in their region should need, in order to make a good start at the labour market. This gives schools in vocational education and training more space to align their education to the developments in the region. So that the employment opportunities for graduated students in vocational education and training (MBO) will be further increased.
For quite some time there is a call for regional customization in vocational education and training. That is why the Minister makes it possible for schools in vocational education and training to make  the supply of their training better flexible, more actual and innovative. From school year 2016/2017 hundreds of new optional subjects will give students in vocational education and training more perspective on the rapidly changing labor market in their region.

Broadening or deepening the expertise
The Minister wants that students can make a personal choice out of the new range of optional subjects, that if offered by the institutions for vocational education and training. This allows students to broaden or deepen their expertise/professional skills. The optional subjects take about 15% of the training hours. By specifying and mentioning them on the diploma, the optional subjects receive a formal status and have an added value to the diploma.

Examples of new optional subjects are ‘3D modeling’ and ‘3D production’, ‘German’, and subjects that connect to the digitalisation in the furniture and architecture.

Responding to emerging professions
In the Dutch qualifications structure representatives of employers, employees and educational institutions are working together to define qualification dossiers. In these dossiers is indicated what a future professional should know or be able to demonstrate after his or her examination. Schools for vocational education and training develop their own education programs based on these qualification dossiers. Developing a complete qualification dossier takes time. With about three months lead time the development of an optional subject is much faster than a new qualification dossier. This flexibility gives schools more possibilities to respond more quirkily to emerging professions. The supply of optional subjects in vocational education can be adapted each quarter of the year. For very specific subjects, experts with practical experience can be employed as teacher.

More space for training aligned to the region 

News item January 2016

Schools for vocational education and training should adapt faster to the emerging professions. The Cabinet has agreed to an experiment scheme of the Minister of Education, in which schools for vocational education and training together with the labour market can develop new programs at regional level. The Cabinet wants that schools and businesses offer the opportunity to anticipate on the actual and innovative developments in the labour market. 

Many of the future professions are at the interface of different sectors. For example, social services have to deal more and more often with technology, such as robots, health apps and new equipment. The agricultural sector has an increasing need for skilled workers with expert knowledge in the field of robotics, drones, sensor technology, precision farming and the use of GPS.

In this experiment educational institutions have the possibility to put together a qualification together with the labour market; and on this basis to shape education. The government wants to give more freedom to schools and the (regional) business so that they can adapt the current developments to their education. This initiative complements the earlier revision of the qualification dossiers in MBO and the introduction of the optional subjects. Training in vocational education is based on a qualification and one or multiple optional subjects, that enrich the qualification. This allows students to broaden or deepen his/her expertise. With these measures the government wants to train students in vocational education to obtain the most actual knowledge and skills for professions of the future, so that they are better prepared for working at the labour market.


Launch of a second application round for a VET Investment Fund in 2016

News item December 2015

Schools for vocational education and training (VET) should receive more opportunities to create more innovative education in close cooperation with companies. Minister Bussemaker (education) will therefore expand the preconditions of the Regional Investment Fund for VET. The interest of VET schools and companies in the fund has been rising steadily over the last couple of years. To give schools and companies more opportunities to file innovative plans, there will be two rounds of application for the investment fund. VET schools and companies will furthermore have the opportunity to implement a lectorate or Associate-degree programme into their projects. Minister Bussemaker established the fund in order to encourage VET to invest in more innovative education in close cooperation with other regional actors.

Figures of SBB : for vocational education and the labour market (SBB) show that the amount of vacancies for VET students has increased with 6 % from March 2015 until August 2015, compared to the same period in 2014.

Institutions(/schools) and companies show great interest in the VET Investment Fund
The Regional Investment Fund for VET has become increasingly popular among VET institutions. In 2014, companies, healthcare facilities, municipalities, provinces and Universities of Applied Sciences jointly invested roughly 40 million euros into innovative education. In 2015, this shared investment exceeded € 70 million. A large share, amounting to almost 14 million, has been invested in machines, materials and other equipment. Please click here for an overview of all projects (only available in Dutch).

Joint innovation strength
To expand the joint innovation strength between education institutions and companies, Minister Bussemaker will open a second round of applications for the Regional Investment Fund VET instead of one application round per year. Interested actors will therefore have more opportunities to develop joint initiatives for VET, which is more adjusted to developments in the region. The Government has made € 24 million available for the first application round. Complemented by investments from regional authorities and companies, this investment should lead to a total of € 72 million.

Minister Bussemaker furthermore offers VET schools and companies the opportunity to implement a lectorate or Associate Degree programme  in the joint projects. More and more institutions welcome lectorates in their educational programme. In this way, teachers and practitioners form a circle of knowledge bridge the gap between VET and companies, but also between practice and research. Minister Bussemaker wants to facilitate more institutions to adapt to a changing demand for knowledge and skills.

Evaluation Committee
Because of the Regional Investment Fund for VET, Minister Bussemaker makes a total of € 100 million available for innovative cooperation in VET. A precondition is that the subsidy of regional authorities and companies will be complemented by two third co-financing. The total amount of investments thereby amounts to € 300 million available for a better transitions between VET and the labour market.
In the beginning of May 2016, Minister Bussemaker will reveal which projects will receive a subsidy from the fund. An independent Evaluation Committee headed by Arie Kraaijeveld will assess the applications. In the Commission, both experts from (VET) education and companies are represented.

Bussemaker: more human scale for secondary vocational education (MBO)

News item October 2015

Students and teachers should feel at home in secondary vocational education and also have a range of choices. To make this possible, conglomerate MBO institutions will have to divide their courses over independent MBO colleges with a recognisable and coherent profile, in keeping with the needs of the regional labour market. These colleges will be headed by a director who is responsible for the quality of teaching, along similar lines to the dean of a university faculty. These measures, proposed by education minister Jet Bussemaker, are designed to clarify the type of education and training provided by secondary vocational education institutions for the benefit of students, teachers and the regional business community. The minister outlined her aims in a letter to parliament at the end of November.

An average MBO institution has around 7,000 students. By comparison, the smallest (Leiden Instrument Makers School) has 250 and the largest (Amsterdam ROC) has over 27,000. Although more and more institutions are organising education on a smaller scale, this is by no means standard practice.

A ceiling on school size
The minister wants secondary vocational education institutions to be much more transparent about the courses they provide so that young people and their parents can make a conscious and well-informed choice. ‘We need to bring back the human dimension to our vocational education,’ says Ms Bussemaker. ‘We don’t want students to feel that they’re a number, wandering down endless corridors in a vast institution where nobody knows who they are. I want students and their parents to be able to step inside a school building and feel that this is where people learn to be experts in their chosen trade – as carers, technicians or designers. To make that possible, secondary vocational schools must have a clear identity. Students in similar courses must be grouped together, teaching must be in small classes, and the teachers should know everyone by name.’

To boost this sense of identity, Ms Bussemaker wants to introduce a statutory ceiling on the size of educational establishments. Institutions with 5,000 or more students will be obliged to divide their courses over smaller, specialised MBO colleges. Those that already provide small-scale education will not have to adopt this college model.

Recognising and fostering talent
The minister believes that students perform better when they feel that their teacher knows and understands them, and notices when they are absent. Their talents are recognised and appreciated, and better student-teacher contact reduces the risk of students failing to complete their courses. Students in a small-scale teaching environment have a better idea of who to go to with their questions or complaints, and feel safer. For teachers, too, it is important that their place of work is not too large, has short communication lines, and welcomes a dynamic debate with school leaders and managers about education quality.

Constructive collaboration
The new MBO college system will make it easier for local businesses to forge links with education. By sharing knowledge and expertise at professional level, institutions will keep abreast of new developments. In turn, businesses will be more willing to invest in MBO education.

College directors to be responsible for quality of teaching
Every college will be headed by a director, who is responsible for the quality of teaching, along similar lines to the dean of a university faculty. The director’s role will be enshrined in law. In addition, the Inspectorate of Education will supervise the individual MBO colleges rather than the institution as a whole. This will improve transparency on the quality of individual courses within the school.

Collaborative colleges in areas of population shrinkage
Over the next 10 years the number of students in secondary vocational education nationwide is expected to drop significantly. It is estimated that by 2030, there will be 62,400 (13%) fewer students than in 2015 and numbers will drop by as much as 30% in some regions. This is mainly due to changing demographics. MBO institutions that want to team up now encounter practical problems like student registration and potentially having to pay VAT for hiring staff and services. By introducing the new collaborative college system, the minister wants to make it easier for institutions to work together. The collaborative partnerships between colleges will keep education provision at regional level broad, accessible and clearly recognisable.

Tougher requirements for examination committees in secondary vocational education (MBO)

News item October 2015

Examination committees in secondary vocational education must become more objective and expert in order to carry out their tasks effectively. The cabinet has approved a bill by education minister Jet Bussemaker, which tightens up the statutory requirements for MBO examination committees. These measures should improve the quality of examining in secondary vocational education.

The government believes that MBO students have a right to good-quality exams, so that they can be appropriately tested on their skills and knowledge in order to obtain their qualification. Examination committees are responsible for ensuring that examining and certification meet all the quality requirements. The effective functioning of the examination committee is therefore essential.

A study by the Inspectorate of Education has shown that the quality of examining and certification is substandard at a number of MBO institutions. Too often, examination committees fail to perform their duties effectively. So Ms Bussemaker is taking measures to step up and expand their tasks and powers. For example, examination committees will have increased powers to take action in the event of fraud. In addition, examination committee members will have to meet stricter requirements. By law, every committee must have at least one external member and one MBO teacher.

The cabinet has agreed to submit the bill to the Council of State for an advisory opinion. The bill and the advisory opinion will be published when they are presented to the House of Representatives.

Extra funding for new occupational skills training pathway

News item September 2015

The Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, gave the green light on 23 November for a new occupational skills training pathway. This is a new type of course that runs from pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) through to secondary vocational education (MBO), and closely involves regional trade and industry. VMBO and MBO providers work together intensively to streamline these courses and prevent curriculum overlap. Students thus progress smoothly along a single learning pathway to obtain their VMBO and MBO certificates. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has earmarked almost €1 million to expand the number of occupational skills training pathways.

From pupil to skilled professional
Trajectum College and Via Nova College, two VMBO schools in Utrecht, have teamed up with the ROC Midden-Nederland regional training centre to provide the 100th occupational skills training pathway. Like the other 99 pathways, this course is the product of intensive collaboration between VMBO and MBO schools. Collaboration with local and regional employers is also a key feature of the new-style integrated pathway. Right from day one, the curriculum emphasises hands-on experience, including visits to local businesses and institutions and guest lectures by specialists from the world of work.

The first cohort of pupils from Trajectum College and Via Nova College will embark on this pathway in the 2015/2016 school year.

Programmes for gifted and talented MBO students

News item September 2015

Starting in the 2015/2016 school year, about 65 institutions for secondary vocational education (MBO) are offering ambitious training programmes for talented students. They include a ‘Germany course’ for students who want to work in Germany, chef training at the Cas Spijkers Culinary Academy, a business academy course for students who want to start their own business, and a new ‘laborator’ course that blends training for two different occupations: laboratory technician and process operator. The institutions have developed these new programmes in response to the education minister’s plea to give talented students more challenges in training for their chosen occupation.

Ms Bussemaker believes it is essential to give talented students the chance to take part in demanding programmes of study and training, whether they are in primary, secondary or secondary vocational education. In 2014, she invited MBO institutions to flesh out plans for the occupational skills of the future. The minister explains: ‘We hope these new programmes will inspire and motivate more talented young people to specialise in their chosen occupation, and we are giving outstanding young apprentices a chance to progress further in their field.’

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has set aside almost €100 million for the next four years to support institutions in developing an ambitious curriculum for talented MBO students. Different types of programmes are eligible for support. Ms Bussemaker anticipates that the programmes will enhance the quality of secondary vocational education as a whole.

 For more information, please go to Schools for vocational education and training start with special programs for talented students

Flexible secondary vocational education aimed at the occupational skills of the future

News item September 2015

Secondary vocational education must respond more rapidly to developments and the changing labour market. To this end, education minister Jet Bussemaker is planning measures to make MBO education more flexible, so that it more effectively addresses sector-specific developments and the needs of the business community. MBO institutions will be given more scope to set up training courses and learning pathways jointly with public and private employers in the region. In addition, MBO courses will be renamed to describe their purpose more accurately than is currently the case.

A rapid response to new developments
Over the next few years, the minister wants secondary vocational education to focus on what young people need to learn, what skills employers are looking for, and the type of educational concept that best meets these needs. Employers and MBO institutions will have to work together even more closely to ensure that innovations are incorporated into the curriculum more rapidly.

At the moment it costs educational institutions a great deal of time to set up new courses. The minister thinks the process should be speeded up so that tomorrow’s craftsmen are better equipped for tomorrow’s workplace.

The minister had already announced her intention to make the strict guidelines for day-release and school-based vocational training more flexible. Schools and businesses can make their own agreements about how to combine courses and decide jointly on the school and work timetable. This should increase young people’s chances of employment.

Clear levels of vocational education and training
The various levels in secondary vocational education will be clarified and renamed so that students, parents and employers can see exactly what a course involves. MBO students will shortly be able to opt for training to entry level (level 1), basic vocational training (level 2) or professional or middle-management training (levels 3 and 4). As of the 2016 school year, MBO institutions – like HBO institutions – will be able to appoint lecturers who combine teaching with applied research, so that new knowledge and expertise can be made rapidly available to teachers and learners.

Right to MBO admission for future students

News item August 2015

Young people who register for an MBO course at levels 2, 3 or 4 and meet the admission requirements will have the automatic right to admission. Institutions will no longer be allowed to reject them on unclear or insufficient grounds. Education minister Jet Bussemaker proposed a bill to this effect and published it online for public consultation in August 2015. The proposal also stipulates a fixed national registration date for secondary vocational education and entitles future MBO students to advice on the most suitable course of study.

The minister intends these measures to prepare young people more effectively for an independent and valuable role in society and on the job market. She is concerned about the current transition to MBO, which is difficult for many young people.

Every year, over 100,000 pupils progress from secondary education to secondary vocational training. However, many fail to register for an MBO course or drop out early on, often because the course turns out to be an unsuitable choice. Ms Bussemaker’s bill is designed to resolve this problem, as it will require secondary schools, MBO institutions and local authorities to give young people more attention and guidance by helping them choose a secondary vocational course that aligns with their talents and interests.

One of the main new measures is the introduction of a national registration date (1 April) for MBO. This date falls before the secondary school leaving examinations, so it will encourage pupils to think in good time about further studies. Prospective students who register before this date will be entitled to free guidance about their course choice. In combination with effective careers advice, which starts in secondary school, the new measures should smooth the transition to secondary vocational education and reduce dropout.

Around the middle of September, after the four-week online consultation, the minister will submit the final draft of the bill to the Council of State for an advisory opinion.

More occupational skills competitions as an incentive to secondary vocational education

News item August 2015

Craftsmanship and occupational skills deserve a much higher profile nationwide. To make this possible, more skills competitions are to be held in secondary vocational education (MBO). In the 2015/2016 school year, new events of this kind will take place at over 50 MBO institutions. Education minister Jet Bussemaker hopes this will inspire more young people to specialise in an occupation or trade. The competitions are part of the new talent programme for secondary vocational education, for which the minister has set aside €25 million.

Ms Bussemaker believes it is vital for learners to be aware of their talents and capabilities at a young age, and to know about the various occupations open to them. Nowadays, many trades and crafts have become invisible to the public eye and therefore tend to be undervalued or overlooked, particularly by young people. This is why the minister wants secondary vocational training to offer additional challenges.

Skills competitions as part of the curriculum
More and more schools are holding occupational skills competitions. There are competitions for pupils at primary school and in the final year of pre-vocational secondary education, for MBO students and for talented apprentices. WorldSkills is the occupational skills world championship, EuroSkills is the equivalent at EU level.

Last year over 40 MBO institutions participated in occupational skills competitions. In the 2015/2016 school year about 80% of all MBO institutions are organising their own events in preparation for the national qualifying contest. The participating candidates are trained and coached by experts from education and the business community.

The occupational skills competitions constitute part of a broader programme of excellence for talented MBO students. Previously, the minister extended the apprenticeship formula, in which selected candidates are trained as ‘masters’ in their occupational field, to new MBO courses. This special talent programme has since been launched at a number of MBO institutions.

Further improvement in the position of secondary vocational education (MBO) students

News item June 2015

It is now mandatory for all secondary vocational schools to have a proper complaints procedure in place. The Cabinet has adopted the proposal by education minister Jet Bussemaker to enshrine the right of complaint in law. The law will make it easier for MBO students to lodge a complaint, giving them a stronger position than in the past. A key element of good-quality education is openness to feedback, complaints and suggestions for improvement from students and parents. However, a number of MBO institutions are still failing to deal with complaints effectively or listen to students and parents. The new law will force these schools to take complaints seriously.

The right of complaint in primary, secondary and higher education is already enshrined in law. It is now being expanded to include secondary vocational education. This means that all institutions (both publicly and privately funded) must have a complaints procedure in place, so that students’ complaints about the quality of education or improper conduct by the competent authority or its staff are duly dealt with. The right of complaint also applies to prospective students, former students and examination candidates.

The Cabinet has agreed to submit the bill to the Council of State for an advisory opinion. The text of the proposed legislation and of the Council of State’s advisory opinion will be made public when the bill is submitted to the House of Representatives.


Government, business and education invest €72 million in innovative vocational training 

News item June 2015

A Food Lab in Zeeland, a new type of production engineering course in Limburg, a Creative Lab in Arnhem and a Wadden Sea campus in the north of the Netherlands. These are just four of the 29 innovative initiatives developed by the business community and education institutions to be given the green light in early June 2015 by education minister Jet Bussemaker. The MBO Regional Investment Fund, a cofinancing instrument set up by the government, companies and schools, is providing a total of €72 million to such initiatives.

The minister wants to boost the job prospects of MBO students by matching their training more effectively to the demands of their future workplace. This generally requires considerable investment, which would not be possible without help from regional businesses and provincial and municipal authorities. The fund enables the various parties to invest in innovative forms of vocational education and training that meet regional economic needs.

The minister is channelling a total of €100 million through the MBO Regional Investment Fund to innovative partnerships in vocational education and training. Projects are awarded a grant from the fund on condition that two-thirds of the costs are cofinanced by regional authorities and businesses. In total, this will result in an investment of €300 million in creating a better match between vocational education and the world of work.

‘It’s amazing what schools and businesses can achieve together by focusing on what the region needs and where job prospects are for young people. The return on that investment will be used directly in our vocational education classrooms. Students will learn to work with modern materials and techniques and be better prepared for their future workplace. In turn, businesses will benefit because they are investing in young people who will be fully equipped to work for them in the future,’ the minister said.

Joint applications
Applications were submitted by regional consortia of MBO institutions, businesses and care and welfare institutions, along with municipal and provincial authorities, pre-vocational secondary schools (VMBO) and HBO institutions. An independent committee chaired by Arie Kraaijveld assessed the proposals against criteria such as the match between education and the job market, feasibility and sustainability of the consortium. Click here (only available in Dutch) for an overview of all successful project applications.


The Dutch Cabinet reduces the transition to MBO for pupils in VMBO

News item May, 2015

The Cabinet decided, as a response to the proposal of the Minister and State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science, to give schools in VMBO and institutions in MBO more opportunities to further improve the transition from VMBO to MBO. In this way the Cabinet meets the desire of schools and businesses to integrate pre-vocational education and secondary vocational education better.

The starting point is to reduce the transition to MBO for pupils in VMBO, by giving these students the opportunity to follow VMBO training and MBO training as one continuing learning pathway. Students in upper secondary education of VMBO can gain a diploma in MBO (level 2) in three years. From school year 2016/2017 institutions can also offer a continuous learning route from VMBO to MBO level 3 (in addition to the route for craftsmanship to level 2). Besides institutions can offer a continuous learning route from VMBO (middle-management vocational (KB), combined (GL), theoretical (TL)) to MBO level 4. This is an expansion of the technology route. The government expects that this helps young people to see vocational education as an attractive alternative for general education.

New learning routes should increase the job opportunities for students in MBO

News item May, 2015

Students in secondary vocational education (MBO) may soon follow a new learning route that better fits the work that they will do in the future. At this moment the BBL (Block or day release in vocational education) and the BOL (Full-time vocational programmes) pathways are separated strictly. Institutions in MBO cannot offer a combination of BBL and BOL as an independent program, they must provide both a complete BBL program as a complete BOL program.  The Minister of Education Culture and Science wants to get rid of this straitjacket. School in secondary vocational education get the opportunity to offer combined learning routes, which can teach students knowledge and skills more targeted and prepare them better for the workplace. New developments in the labor market can also be incorporated in education faster. The final piece of this new (combination) route is the guarantee of companies to give a training place.

More baggage, more job opportunities
Students will first start with education within the school (BOL) and will mainly work in an apprenticeship in the second part of the training (BBL). This will help students in acquiring additional knowledge and skills before entering the workplace. Besides apprenticeships will receive students with more baggage, these students are therefore faster employable. 

Distinction between BBL and BOL
In the BBL pathway students learn a profession, while they work. Besides these students go to school for theory lessons at least one day per week. The rest of the time these students work in practice and learn while doing. In the BOL pathway students follow education and do internships. The emphasis in the BOL pathway is more on education.

Strenghtening Citizenship through education

News item April, 2015

Students in MBO will receive better education in critical thinking, and conduct a dialogue on complex issues such as radicalization, discrimination and freedom of speech. The Minister of Education, Culture and Science tightened the law on these points, so that citizenship through education (in secondary vocational education) meets the requirements of this time.

The proceeds of the discussion the State Secretary started under #onderwijs2032 (Education 2032) is included in tightening the law. In ‘Education2032’ questions are examined about what students in primary and secondary education should learn about citizenship. Coordination between the various levels in education is important, so that everyone has the same starting point.

Supporting schools
In primary and secondary education important progress is made in recent years. The Inspectorate of Education found that many schools meet the minimum requirements with regard to the attention that should be given to citizenship. However it is often unclear what schools learn their students exactly about fundamental values of our democracy and the risk of radicalization. Teaching materials and support is available for teachers and school leaders. Until now this gave to little notable results. Therefore it is examined what works and what does not work and in what way school can be served better. In addition a guideline is developed, by order of the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, so that schools and teachers can translate their view on citizenship to a practical application for in the classroom.

Important role for teacher training
An important role in shaping citizenship education is reserved for teacher training. Progress is visible. Citizenship has been accommodated in the generic knowledge base (kennisbasis) for teacher training in PABO’s (Primary School Teacher Training Colleges) and teacher training for a grade-two qualification, so that every student (and future teacher) learns about it. 

In higher education an amendment is being prepared in which also non-funded universities and HBO institutions will have the statutory duty to ‘broadening education and to promote social responsibility’. Until now this task is only obligated for government-funded institutions.

More focus on critical thinking in MBO level 1 and 2
In MBO much is done on the subject ‘citizenship’. But research shows that the focus on critical thinking is insufficient, especially at MBO level 1 and 2. Paying attention to citizenship is especially important for students in MBO level 1 and 2, because these students often are behind in these subjects and education can make a difference.
To strengthen citizenship education in MBO, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science sharpens the resolution on examination and qualifications on the points of critical thinking and the dialogue on complex issues such as radicalization, discrimination and freedom of speech. This will be done by August 1, 2016.

Minister of Education takes measures to maintain specialized craftsmanship

News item February, 2015

The Minister takes measures to maintain specialized craftsmanship. Examples of specialized craftsmanship are professions like piano technicians, shoe repairers and restoration employees. The job opportunities of these specialized professions are often well, but shrinkage, an ageing population and a lack of familiarity with these professions lead to a decreasing number of employees and students in the training courses.

More money will be available for these specialized craftsmanship. Besides, school for vocational secondary education (MBO) will get the opportunity to distinguish themselves more exclusive as thé place for a certain unique professional training. Further the Minister introduces a ‘new lock on the door’ so that as longs as there is a demand from the labor market the education for these specialized craftsmanship will never completely disappear.

Handicrafts play an important role and are a vital link in the Dutch economy and society. The training course for these handicrafts are often financially vulnerable because of the small number of students in the training courses. From this year on the Minister of Education makes € 75 million available structural for technical and other expensive courses in vocational education and training. Schools are also given more opportunities to offer new innovative training courses or to offer education collectively with other schools.

Well over one percent of all students in vocational education and training follow a course that prepares them for a small-scale craftsmanship. The Minister of Education takes these additional protective measures to ensure that there is a sufficient flow of specialized professionals

A better connection between vocational education and training and the regional labor market should increase the chances on the labor market

News item January, 2015

Young people who want to start with a vocational education and training course should have a better idea of the quality of education, the labor market perspective and the content and organization of education. Schools for vocational education and training are therefore legally required to inform prospective students properly from August 2015. The bill from the Minister of Education on this is approved by the Senate. This will decrease the chance that young people choose a training that is not that relevant for the labour market. Besides, this new law will lead to a better staggering of vocational training and education and to vocational education that better meets the demands of the labour market. Schools and the regional labour market are primarily responsible for this. In extreme cases, the Minister of Education is authorized to intervene when these parties do not take their responsibilities.

On the average the connection between education and the labour market for courses in vocational education and training is good. Despite this good starting position, there are still too many young people in vocational education and training that follow a course, while there is little demand from the labour market. This increases the risk on unemployment after graduating. With this law the government strives to improve the connection between vocational education and training and the labour market further, in order to improve the job opportunities for young people. 

An independent advisory committee (education-labour market) will supervise whether schools for vocational education and training are connected well to the regional labour market.

Schools for vocational education and training start with special programs for talented students

News item January, 2015

Some schools for vocational education and training will start with a special talent program, where selected students are trained to the mastery. The Minister of Education introduced last year the modern ‘meester-gezelformule (master and workman formula)’ in vocational education and training, so that schools could come up with plans to shape modern craftsmanship further.

The objective of this formula is to transfer knowledge form the master to the student. The basis of a trade is learned at school, this is followed by gaining practical experience (‘practical phase’) under supervision of specialists. Ultimately, an external committee from the branch of trade decides whether a student receives the master title.

The reintroduction of this ‘meester-gezel’ route stems from the ‘MBO Tour’(only in Dutch available). This was a tour to different schools for vocational training and education done last year by the Minister of Education. Besides it is also part of a wider program for excellent students in vocational training and education.
The Minister made an amount of € 25  million available for this new talent program.


New tailor-made professional diplomas for students in vocational education and training

News item December, 2014

Students who have difficulties with vocational education and training can get a professional diploma from now on. With the introduction of this new diploma this group will be judged on what they can do rather than be judged on what they can’t do. With the new plan counselors on schools will help students better to make the transition to the labour market (help them both inside as outside school). To increase the chances of students at the labour market, an investment fund will be available for companies that provide jobs for students in MBO level 1 and 2. These are important priorities in the Plan for Vulnerable Children, which the Minister of Education send to the House of Representatives.

With the introduction of this diploma for MBO level 1 (assistant worker) and MBO level 2 (basic vocational training) the current Minister of Education breaks with the policy of her predecessors. They wanted to steam students in vocational education and training as much as possible to receive at least a diploma at MBO level 2 (Basic qualification requirement). According to the current Minister of Education aiming this level of education is for some students too high, because their skills do not quite match the requirements for a basic qualification. Or because their personal situation doesn’t allow this. This leads to frustration for these students, their parents and their teachers. Uncommonly this leads to dropping out of school, no diploma and unemployment. According to the Minister a breakthrough is necessary to prevent these vulnerable group from dropping out and losing the connection with the society. This new professional diploma  meets the cry of distress from both teachers as parents and students in vocational education and training.

Enhancing regional agreements about who is responsible for these students must prevent students from falling between two stools and from being pushed back and forward between institutions. That is why the Minister of Education will, by law, force schools in vocational education and training to work together with municipalities and schools for secondary education. A legal right for admission to vocational education and training should prevent students from being rejected in schools undeserved.

Minister of education wants a scholarship for instructors

News item November, 2014

Instructors in secondary vocational education (MBO) who wish to develop themselves further should also have the possibility to make use of a scholarship. This is mentioned by the minister of education at MBO city, an annual conference for teachers in secondary vocational education. According to the minister also instructors in secondary vocational education should be given the opportunity to broaden their knowledge or to specialize themselves.

In secondary vocational education teachers and instructors who know the profession well work together as a team. Instructors provide monitoring tasks and teaching tasks under the guidance of a teachers. Therefore these instructors help determine the quality of education. To be an instructor in secondary vocational education you don’t have to follow a special training/form of education. However, these instructors must evidently possess pedagogical-didactic skills.  These instructors are essential in secondary vocational education. That is why they should have the opportunity to develop themselves. This makes them more employable and they can contribute to a higher quality of education at their school. This results in benefits for the entire school.

Life long learning

News item October, 2014

With a comprehensive and coherent package of measures the government will encourage adults to continue learning, even if they already have a job. Part-time students (HBO) in care, welfare and technique will receive vouchers with which they can pay  (a part of) their study. Besides it will become easier to officially acknowledge skills and knowledge of an employee and  in MBO it will be made possible to retrieve certificates for a part of the training. This allows schools to anticipate on the demands of the labor market. The Cabinet has agreed to this proposal of the minister of education, culture and science and the  of minister of social affairs and employment.

It is important that people are prepared for the changing labor market/ for their changing jobs. Employees must continue learning, to keep up with the changes in their jobs and to be able to change timely to another job. Therefore it is important that institutions for higher education better take into account the demand of part-time students. For example flexible education project, where schools and employers have the freedom the adapt education to the needs of the part-time students. The government will allow this and invests an amount of up to € 65 million for part-time higher education between 2015 and 2019.

Better vocational secondary education

News item July, 2014

The government and the vocational secondary education council  made an agreement about ‘future proof’ vocational education and training. The objective is to improve the quality of education for students in vocational education, in order to challenge these students and to prepare them for the demands of the local labor market. The budget available for this increases till € 272 million in 2017. The government has choses a result dependent budget.. Schools that perform well or schools that improve their level of education can receive extra money.

From 2015 vocational secondary education will structurally receive € 75 million to fund technical training, so that institutions can develop their education about technology. Innovative vocational education should prepare students better for future practice.

International experience Secondary vocational education (MBO)
International experience is also becoming increasingly important for students in secondary vocational education. Although they are on the whole somewhat younger than their higher education peers and their course choices tend to be region-based, they too are finding that the business community is more internationally focused and that it requires different competencies now than 20 years ago. The Minister is therefore making € 5 million available from the educational excellence programme to facilitate international cooperation by secondary vocational education institutions. In addition, MBO students will be eligible for EU Erasmus scholarships, for which the budget will also be substantially increased. For more information see International scholarship programme.

Vocational education and training

The action plan Focus on Professionalism 2011-2015 28 has established new foundations for secondary vocational education to improve the quality in this sector. The implementation of this plan is at full speed. At the end of 2013 the basis was established for quality agreements with secondary vocational education institutions in the areas of professionalization, academic success and practical training. These commitments are designed to support the goal of high-quality, challenging education. They are backed by a commitment of €250 million conditional on the concerned institutions and social partners further developing and adopting the agreements stipulated in the National Education Agreement. The measures announced in 2013 on facilitating work-study positions and creating qualification files have now gone into effect 29. The restructuring of qualification files could contribute to better-structured curricula.

On 1 January 2014, the tax credits employers receive for providing work experience places was replaced by a more targeted subsidy scheme. The statutory duties of the current 17 sector-based Centres of Expertise for Vocational Education and Business are largely to be transferred to the Foundation for Cooperation in Vocational Education, Training and the Labour Market (SBB). This foundation will be tasked with creating the qualification files and accrediting the companies offering learning on the job positions.

Funding will continue to be available for combined work and study placements for those who need them most, such as students on block or day release programmes (BBL) and trainees whose future occupations will be in great demand, including researchers, designers and PhD candidates in certain disciplines. However, certain groups are no longer eligible for funding, including providers of combined work and study placements for students who are already covered by other schemes or who do not need a supplementary placement, such as:

  • MBO students in vocational training (BOL);
  • pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) students on combined work and study programmes; and
  • higher professional education (HBO) students attending courses in non-technical subjects.

The grant scheme has a budget of €200 million, which will be shared out among the recipients. It will replace the current incentives whereby employers can deduct a fixed amount per training contract from the total amount of salaries tax and social insurance contributions owed by them in a calendar year. The new grant scheme is one of the measures announced in the 2012 coalition agreement.

The government’s policy on improving the quality of secondary vocational education was enshrined in its 2011 Focus on Expertise action plan for secondary vocational education. In line with this, most four-year MBO courses will be shortened to three years and include more classroom hours. This should make the route from secondary vocational education to higher professional education more attractive in relation to general secondary education. The introduction of the measure has been postponed until the start of the 2014/2015 school year.


Extra funding available for schools in secondary vocational education that put a lot of work into making better education

News item December, 2013

Schools in secondary vocational education can receive an extra amount of money if they give teachers adequate opportunities for career development, if they know how to increase the academic achievements of their students and if they give good guidance to students (MBO) during their internships. The Minister of Education has send this proposal to the Lower House (December 2013). The basic principal of this proposal is that schools that perform well or that increase their level of education will be rewarded financially.

The distribution of the money is tied to measurable quality appointments (which the Minister will soon make with school in secondary vocational education). The aim of the agreements is to improve the quality of education for students so that they are more challenged and are better prepared for the demands of the regional labor market. The amount of money available rises to € 250 million in 2017, which is 7% of the total budget for MBO.

The Minister wants that the quality of education is better clarified for both students, parents as the local businesses. It is important that students and parents can make their study choice based on what institutions can offer them. Besides, the Minister want more opportunities for talented students in secondary vocational education.

Improved connection between MBO-HBO

News item December, 2013

Students in vocational secondary education that want to follow a study in higher professional education must chose a study (HBO) that is in some way in line with their previous training. If students want to go to higher professional education that has little in common with their previous (MBO) study, than they first must receive extra training. With this measure the Minister of Education improves the connection between MBO and HBO, and thereby the chance of success for students in HBO.

With this tightened requirements, the move from non-related MBO training to HBO training remains possible, however there will be additional requirements for some combinations (from MBO to HBO). This can mean that some students need extra training to catch up. The Minister has decided that the measure will be officially from school year 2015-2016, so that students have the time to prepare themselves.
The new demands on the flow of MBO to HBO are an elaboration of the law quality in diversity.

The combinations (MBO to HBO) with stricter requirements are:

  • Technology and process industry (MBO) to economics (HBO)
  • Trade and Entrepreneurship (MBO) to health care (HBO)
  • Trade and Entrepreneurship (MBO) to technology (HBO)
  • Economics and Administration (MBO) to health care (HBO)
  • Economics and Administration (MBO) to technology (HBO)
  • Health and Care (MBO) to economics (HBO)
  • Food, nature and environment (MBO) to economics (HBO)

More chances for students in vocational secondary education

News item April, 2013

Schools in vocational secondary education will only offer training with sufficient perspective from the labor market. The Cabinet has approved a proposal of the Minister Bussemaker (Education) to increase the chances at the labor market of young people with an MBO diploma (April 2013). This means that schools in secondary vocational education will inform students better about their chances on the labor market prior to the choice for a specific training. Further the schools will align their training better with the regional businesses and other institutions in the region. It will also be possible to close trainings faster if there is no demand from the labor market.   

ROCs already have the duty to offer trainings only if there is an adequate labor market perspective for students after completion of the training. There is also already the obligation for each course to do training practice at an approved  apprenticeship.
Institutions will be required to inform prospective students well about the training and the job prospects, so that students can make a  more balanced choice and are more motivated to start the training.

Extra money available to combat youth unemployment

News item March, 2014

The government will make € 50 million extra available to combat youth unemployment in 2013 and 2014. € 25 million is available for the program 'School Ex' for young people so that they keep on studying in MBO, € 25 million is available for labor market regions to help young people to get started. The Minister of Social Affairs and Employment and the Minister of Education, Culture and Science have written this to the Lower House in March 2013. Tackling early school leaving and a better connection between education and the labor market can help in combatting youth unemployment.

School Ex
 € 25 million is available for "School Ex," a program in which examinees in MBO are encouraged to keep on studying after they received their diploma. In order to prevent them from youth unemployment and to increase their chances at the labor market. It is of course important that young people tend to choose programs with the prospect of a place in the labor market (for example in technique).

Source of all of the above articles: Site of the Government(site with these articles is only available in Dutch).