In the Dutch education system one ought to have 12 years of education, starting at the primary school from the age of 4. After 8 years of primary education the children will do a CITO-test that determines to which level of secondary education they can attend. The Dutch secondary education consists of three levels, respectively: VMBO, HAVO and VWO. VMBO is a 4 year program that has a more practical focus than the remaining levels and it is subdivided into four groups: BBL, GL, KBL and TL.
A VMBO degree gives access to the subsequent vocational programs (MBO), which are 2 to 4 years depending on the chosen courses. The intermediate level of the secondary education is the HAVO program of 5 years. After completion and obtaining the HAVO degree, one can choose to do either a higher vocational program (HBO) of 4 years or a MBO. However, recently the Dutch government has declared a HBO degree to be equivalent to a university’s bachelor degree and therefore it is more attractive to HAVO graduates to pursue a program in HBO. Finally, the highest level in the Dutch secondary education is VWO.
After completion of this program of 6 years, one has access to all universities in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, some popular courses, such as medicine and psychology, do have a minimum grade as entry requirement and therefore students willing to pursue a career in those fields will have to face a strong competition. In the Chinese education system one has 9 years of compulsory education, starting at the primary school from an age of 6. However, before the primary school many Chinese children will go to a preschool to develop their linguistic skills.
After 6 years of primary school, the children will do a national test that ultimately determines to which secondary school they can attend. In china there are no distinctive levels in the secondary school system, but reputation and ranking distinguish the schools. Therefore there are the so-called key-schools that only accept students with high grades or have rich parents. The first 3 years in the secondary education is the junior-stage, wherein one will have a central examination in the last year.
The results of that examination will either allow the student to the senior-stage of the secondary education or direct the student to another school specialised in vocational education. The students who are able to enter the senior-stage will do another central exam in their last year. The results of that exam will subsequent give the student access to the universities in China. The popular universities usually have a good reputation and high national ranking, therefore only the students with the highest scores in their final exams can fulfil the entry requirements.
In comparing the two education systems, one should have noticed that the Dutch primary education is extended over a longer period than the Chinese primary education, respectively 8 and 6 years. Moreover, the more complex Dutch secondary education system allows students to jump between levels. In other words, a hardworking student could start in VMBO-BBL in the first year and end up in VWO the next year. This switch between levels is not possible in the Chinese secondary education system and the central exams determine the future destiny of the students.