Status holders overrepresented in job-oriented practical training

© Hollandse Hoogte / Joyce van Belkom
Of all 12 to 17-year-old asylum status holders who received a residence permit in 2014, 15 percent were enrolled in labour-oriented practical training (PRO, praktijkonderwijs) on 1 October 2018. This share is significantly above the average for the Netherlands, with 3 percent of all secondary school students enrolled in this type of education. Syrian children are relatively less likely to be enrolled at this level than children from other refugee countries. This is evident from a new report on Syrian status holders in the Netherlands, ‘Syrische statushouders op weg in Nederland’, published by The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) in collaboration with the WODC (Research and Documentation Centre), the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

On behalf of the Dutch Ministries of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW), Justice and Security (JenV), Education, Culture and Science (OCW) and Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), these four institutions have studied the present situation of those status holders who were granted an asylum residence permit between 2014 and 2016 inclusive. Participation in education among this cohort was studied over up to four consecutive years.

In the 2014 cohort, 9 percent of all 12 to 17-year-old Syrians were enrolled in job-oriented practical training as of 1 October 2018. This enrolment share was 22 percent among status holders from Eritrea and other countries. A possible explanation is that many status holders are placed at a lower level due to their language disadvantage (Education Council, 2017).

Labour-oriented practical training enrolment among 12 to 17-year-old status holders, 1 October 2018
Vergunningscohort2015 Cohort (%)2014 Cohort (%)

Most status holders in general education after primary

Focusing on those students who move from primary to secondary education, the vast majority of status holders appear to transition to general secondary education. Of the children who obtained a residence permit in 2014 and were enrolled in the final year of primary education in the 2015/’16 school year, a share of 86 percent were admitted to the first year of any type of general secondary education.

As for the entire student population who were in the first year of secondary education in the 2016/’17 school year, 97 percent were in general education and 3 percent in job-oriented practical training.

Types of secondary education among status holders 1 year after completing primary
CategorieGeneral year (%)Practical training (%)Unknown (%)
2014 Cohort
2015 Cohort
2016 Cohort

Rising share of students move on to practical training

In later cohorts, a notably larger share of the students finishing primary transitioned directly to a labour-oriented training programme. Of the Syrian children who received a residence permit in 2014, 6 percent had direct admission to practical training. This share had gone up to 13 percent among the group of Syrians who obtained a residence permit two years later in 2016. The share with direct admission to practical training increased among the later cohorts from other refugee countries as well. 17 percent of the non-Syrian children from the 2014 cohort entered practical training directly, in the 2016 cohort this was 28 percent.

The share of status holders who are admitted to practical training only after the first year of secondary (indirectly) is seen to increase further among all cohorts. Therefore, not only later cohorts are more likely to enter practical training, but their share also increases as they progress through secondary education.

Progress to higher MBO levels via VMBO and MBO-1

Among those status holders who obtained their residence permits when they were between the ages of 12 and 18 , the share who are admitted to MBO (vocational upper secondary education) increases with age and length of stay. Initially, training at entry level (MBO-1) is most common among these students. This is probably due to the fact that these students arrived in the Netherlands without a (Dutch) education diploma. To be admitted to MBO-1, no diploma is required. This is a relatively short training of one year.

A substantial share of the status holders continue on to a higher MBO level either via the entry-level training or via VMBO (pre-vocational secondary education). By obtaining a diploma at MBO-2 level, they have achieved a basic qualification for the Dutch labour market. Among the Syrians who were 12 to 17 years old when they received their residence permit, 38 percent were enrolled in MBO at level 2, 3 or 4 four years later. This share was slightly lower among the other status holders at 30 percent.

Higher participation rates among young adults

As for status holders who were between 18 and 30 years old when they were granted their residence permit, 4 percent were enrolled in education in October of the year after obtaining this permit. This share had increased to 22 percent in the same month three years later. The share among Syrians was roughly equal to the shares in other groups of status holders. The rising participation rates can partly be attributed to the compulsory civic integration process that needs to be completed first. This is a precondition for enrolment in funded education.