It all begins from the moment you are going to secondary school. Here you will start to prepare for your future career. However, since you are young there are so many things you could do and maybe want to do. Not only school of course. Traveling, media and all kinds of subcultures influence your character and thus also your future. Still, decisions will have to be made at this age, at least in the current system. Since I have experienced troubles with this system, I decided to discus this early choice and I have asked myself the question if it this system is not outdated.
So what does the current secondary school program look like? In the first year you are all in the same class independent of your educational level. The second year you are being divided in levels based on your first year and in the third year the time has come to make your own choice as to in which educational direction you want to continue. These directions are closely related to your future career. The so called tiered-system consists of VMBO, HAVO and VWO. VMBO is strongly preparing students for a job.
Therefore it mostly consists of practical classes. With both HAVO and VWO you will mainly follow theoretical classes, only VWO is a level higher because it is preparation for the university and has principally an independent and investigative focus. Which level you will follow depends on the choice the school makes for you, of course this will be with some consultation with the student. They base this choice on results you have achieved earlier and the effort you have shown. However you can change levels if school made a wrong decision or you are showing better results. This level transfer is rather easy.
Within this tiered-system you have directions which a child should prepare on a future career. For VMBO these directions are called sectors and are aimed on a job. For HAVO and VWO these different directions are called profiles. Within these sectors and profiles you can choose for the technical subjects or cultural subjects. Both sectors as profiles prepare you for a career. In a way these reduce the choice of careers. If you made a wrong choice, it is not easy to change sectors/profiles. Often you have to start all over again because you missed out on a specific subject in your previous profile. Therefore this transfer is not easy to do.
Using the level you did on secondary school you can go to college. With VMBO you do MBO education, HAVO prepared you for HBO and VWO is a preparation for University. Once you have made a choice within these colleges it is surprisingly easy compared to switching at secondary school. If you think you made the wrong choice you can quit and switch to another direction. For example, it is rather easy to change from law school to history or from physics to chemistry. It is of course harder to change from a cultural study to a more technical study or the other way around. A switch is even possible when you are an adult and already got a career. There are so many opportunities to learn a profession within a short amount of time such as a separate courses or evening college.
The current tiered-system forces you to choose between categories and thus limits your career options while you may want to change when you grow older. This, however, is difficult to do since usually you will then have to start over. You do not have the back knowledge which other children do have. Most of the time this back knowledge, which is very simple but very extensive and takes a lot of time to master, is very important for the basic of a college.
So when you have to choose a profile society assumes that you know what you want to be when you grow up. Practice shows the contrary is true. Michiel westenberg, who is doing research on the psychosocial development of adolecents , says “[…] het verwerven van zelfinzicht, van inzicht in anderen en van zelfstandigheid veel tijd in beslag neemt”
He describes that the parts of your brain which contribute to making these kinds of choices continue to develop long after puberty, sometimes even up till the age of 25.
This makes it hard for secondary school students to reflect on what they do and to make important decisions. But these students still have to make a decision at the age of 15.
Nowadays students learn more and more outside their school yard. The current market requires broadly developed employees, not only on an educational level but also on a social level. Media and new media such as internet have great influence on a student’s perspective and can play an important role in the broadening of his or her horizon. Education should not become a slave of the industry, but on the other hand the gap between the industry and schools should not become too large. Therefore these kinds of cultural aspects are of great importance for education.
The system is of a time that when your father was a baker you would become a baker. Now the career choices have grown and changed so the profile system should be expanded and changed too. At the age of 15, which is the age at which most students have to decide which track they will follow, you are not able to make a this choice for life. However, this ‘choice for life’ does not seem to be so final nowadays. In the current society the switch between jobs is easy and people are required to have a flexible attitude. Media and one’s cultural background certainly contribute to this attitude. In secondary school this flexibility is not yet found. It might therefore be a good idea to start exploring new educational systems and get rid of the current, outdated one.
door Bart Dirks en Martin Sommer