The Dutch education matrix: transitions of pupils from year to year
The so called "education matrix" compares the position of pupils and students from one year to another. In the matrix table of 2005 the column on the left hand side shows the education programme in which pupils are enrolled in school year 2004/'05, while the top row shows the education programme in which the same group of pupils is enrolled in school year 2005/'06.
The various education programmes are classified according to broad categories of the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), which are further differentiated into Dutch programmes where pupils may follow different education careers within such a category.
The two main educational careers or pathways pupils can follow are the "general" and the "vocational". The vocational one is more popular in lower secondary education. Nearly six out of ten pupils who move on from grade 2 to grade 3 of lower secondary education are enrolled in vocational programmes; four out of ten pupils move on to general education.
Within upper secondary general education, pupils may be enrolled in senior general secondary education (Dutch acronym "havo") or in pre-university education (Dutch abbreviation "vwo"). Both general pathways lead towards tertiary education. The drop out rates on the way to tertiary education are low: 4 to 5 percent of the pupils leave the education system without qualification. The percentage of pupils who qualify in "vwo" and who continue directly in higher education after their qualification, is very high: 90 percent. From the pupils who leave "havo" with a qualification, 83 percent moves on to higher education in the next school year, 4 percent switches to "vwo" trying to get a second general qualification, while 3 percent opts for upper secondary vocational education. That could be the result of a late calling for a vocational career, but a couple of years extra vocational education could also function as an intermediate stage before the transition to higher education.
The purpose of lower secondary vocational programmes (ISCED 2) is to prepare pupils for upper secondary vocational programmes (ISCED 3), which eventually result in labour market relevant qualifications. The connection between the two ISCED levels, however, is not perfect. Of the pupils in vocational programmes on lower secondary level, 5 percent leaves the education system (at least for one year) without qualification, and only 70 percent of those who qualify carries on in vocational programmes on ISCED level 3. There is also a small percentage of pupils who prefer to continue their educational careers in general education, what brings the total percentage of pupils with a vocational ISCED 2 qualification who move on to ISCED level 3, on 77 percent. Almost all of the remaining pupils (22 percent) leave the education system with a qualification that is officially regarded as not (yet) sufficient for a vocational career.
At the end of school year 2004/ '5 a substantial number of more than 130 thousand pupils qualified in upper secondary vocational education. Drop out from these programmes, however, is high: 14 percent of the pupils left the education system without qualification. Of those who qualified, almost 70 percent left the education system, looking for a job, 15 percent remained enrolled on the same ISCED level trying to get another qualification, and another 15 percent moved on to tertiary education.
Tertiary education, at last, has two main categories: higher professional education (Dutch abbreviation "hbo") and university education (Dutch abbreviation "wo"). "Hbo" is the normal sequence to "havo" and "wo" is the normal continuation of "vwo". Both "hbo"and "wo" qualifications (professional bachelor and academic master respectively) are classified on ISCED 5A level. The academic master title, however, gives evidently not only more status, but also more labour market opportunities. Almost one out of ten professional bachelors continues in university education.