Children leaving schools in the Netherlands functionally illiterate

Children leaving schools in the Netherlands functionally illiterate

According to the Education Inspectorate’s 2016 / 2017 report, educational performance by pupils in Dutch primary education and secondary education has yet again worsened, a trend that has been occurring for the last 20 years.

NL loses international position

The report brings to light a few trends which are a cause for concern, namely the literacy rate of pupils leaving primary school. Nowadays, 3.500 pupils leave primary school functionally illiterate, and it is not only reading that children are struggling with.

Figures show a gradual decrease in scores for calculus, mathematics, reading and natural sciences. In 2017, around 13.000 pupils left primary school without being able to do simple calculus.

Increasingly fewer pupils are performing above average in primary and secondary education, and because of this, the Netherlands has lost its leading position internationally. The decreasing scores are not due to children of asylum seekers, as previously thought, as this group was not included in the research.

Dutch school segregation

Another issue, which cropped up in the Education Inspectorate’s 2016 / 2017 report, was the increasing social-economic segregation in schools. In 23 of the largest Dutch municipalities, children with high-income and / or highly educated parents have progressively fewer classmates from lower income families or families where the parents are less educated.

Part of this school segregation is due to segregation of “high-income” and “low-income” neighbourhoods in Dutch cities. Children in the neighbourhood tend to attend the closest school and this influences the mix of children there. However, this is not the whole story.

Many highly educated young couples move to areas of the city they wouldn’t have moved to before because of the high prices on the Dutch housing market. Yet, when it comes to sending their children to school, they choose other schools over the one available in their area.

The Education Inspectorate is concerned that children will find themselves in a “bubble”, as they are not coming into contact with children from other backgrounds. Moreover, the Inspectorate is worried about the quality of education at Dutch schools.

According to the Inspector General, Monique Vogelzang, many schools with pupils whose parents are less educated have difficulty finding teachers. Over time, this segregation could reinforce educational inequality.

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

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kyuteelee 10:57 | 15 April 2018

If a student graduates being illiterate the TEACHERS, COUNSELORS, VICE PRINCIPALS, PRINCIPALS, and BOARD HEADS of EACH LEVEL the STUDENT went through SHOULD BE HELD FINACIALLY ACCOUNTABLE!!! They should be financially responsible for the illiterate child they passed for reeducation costs and income until financial stable. IF THE NETHERLANDS WANTS LOW ILLITERACY IT IS TIME TO HOLD THOSE WHO ARE EDUCATING THE STUDENTS AND PASSING THEM WITHOUT BEING LITERATE FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE!!! It needs to become a law so that teachers DO NOT think they can get a paycheck for NOT DOING THEIR JOB!! It is time to let them know it is not acceptable just to pass a child to get them out of their class or school!! This not only should be for the Netherlands but for EVERY country. Each school should also be able to provide a goid education at the level of the child for advancement so that even the poor families children have an opportunity for advancement in life. If not that then if a child shows they OUTGREW in advanced lessons in their given area there shoukd be a special subsidy for transportation for the child to the nearest school with a level of classes and lessons that do not cause them to stagnate but grow! I do not have children BUT it is the children who will be shaping our lives when we retire. What would you rather have? 1. A prosperous educated workforce in society that can insure that there is adequate care and financial prosperity for them and the country. 2. A declining financial base with uneducated workforce tgat will cause higher taxes to be set in the future that will eventually bankrupt the citizens and country. The second choice is the one we make by NOT INSURING that the EDUCATION SYSTEM and its EMPLOYEES are NOT held ACCOUNTABILE for passing illiterate students!

Bobl 00:37 | 29 April 2018

Starts at the creche, until they are 4 they never see a letter or number. They dont start learning to read until they are 6. Yet latest research shows that if kids dont get exposed to letters from 2 years old they are less likely to be literate later in life.