7. Education

I learned a lot this week on the Dutch Education. It filled in a lot of gaps in what other Dutchies had told me about education. I think next year it would be really useful to have this as one of the first lectures as everyone in the class was clearly really interested and it helps in understanding what you are actually part of whilst studying here. Especially if you haven’t realised that UCU is a different set up to normal Dutch universities.

The major comparison I have to make is that the UK used to have this split, in sending people to different schools at the age of 11. Everyone would sit the 11 plus test and this would decide if you went to a grammar school (like the VWO) or a comprehensive (HAVO). Though I think the education given was similar and not the kind of practical v academic split they have here, though obviously it must be along those lines. The most important thing for this comparison is that the UK has gotten rid of this system. This is because the people who didn’t pass the 11 plus were severely disadvantaged. There was a fear that the middle class were able to get into grammar schools and the working class were left behind. Creating an even wider divide between the two.

This point is interesting as I had my family and friends to stay over for Easter and I had a chat with them and one of my Dutch friends about the class system. She obviously thought it was weird and asked if we always talk about it as I was teasing my boyfriend about being upper middle class. The conversation went on and I said how sociology had told me that even if a country doesn’t have a class system there will be something that divides one part of society from another. My Dutch friend thought about it and then said that education was probably the defining line of ‘classes’ in the Netherlands. This did change my view of the Netherlands as I now understand how society moves and works to prepare its next generation.  Though I am curious to see if the CITO will stop as it has in the UK, though in class they said that the CITO was being made compulsory so in that case I guess not.

Grammar schools do exist still in the UK and you pass the eleven plus to get into them but they are not available for everyone so, for instance, I didn’t go to one as there wasn’t one in my area, hence I went to a very normal state school.

The other thing that is interesting in comparison in education is that private schools aren’t valued very highly here, whereas in the UK they definitely are. If you go to private school then you are generally considered to get a better education (though the ones in my area aren’t amazing) and will have many advantages in life which include going to the top universities. Coming from the lower rung in schools it is nice to know that money does not get you a ‘better’ education as it does at home.

It is also amazing that university finances are much better for a studying student then they are at home. I mean we get a loan from the government too, but a BIG difference is we have to pay ours back! Hence at the end of my 4 years at university I’m going to be £40,000 in debt to the government and my parents. I would be very happy not to have to pay that back. I am also jealous of the OV card all students get as I can’t get one and as I think travel costs here are extortionate, I am extremely jealous. So I was happy to hear in class that they were actually a money-saving scheme, this at least lightened my day a little bit.

The most impressive thing to learn was that all Dutch universities are in the top 200 worldwide. Exeter is considered to be a very good university at home and has been around the top 10 in the UK league tables since I’ve been there. However it is barely scraping into the top 200 tables, some years not even making it at all. This kind of thing then of all universities being pretty equal is an odd concept, but I think the Netherlands should be very proud of their universities in that case. I think all universities being excellent is far greater than having a couple of amazing ones.


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