The Netherlands: Voorbereidend Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs (VWO)

New for 2017

Country
  • The Netherlands
Purpose

Primary education lasts eight years beginning at age four (with English introduced in the seventh year), after which pupils can choose between various streams of secondary education. Two of these streams, HAVO and VWO, offer general secondary education which prepares students for HE. The HAVO diploma is obtained after five years of study and is the minimum entry requirement for admission to bachelor’s programmes in the applied arts and sciences, in the type of higher education known as hoger beroepsonderwijs (HBO). HBO is in most cases offered by hogescholen (universities of applied sciences). The VWO diploma is obtained after completion of six years of study and is required for admission to bachelor’s programmes in research-oriented disciplines in the type of higher education known as wetenschappelijk onderwijs (WO). WO is offered by universiteiten (universities).

For a more detailed description, see: www.studyinholland.nl/documentation/higher-education-system-in-the-netherlands.pdf.

Education context

The VWO diploma grants access to both types of higher education in the Netherlands, i.e. to research-oriented bachelor’s degree programmes as well as to bachelor’s programmes in the applied arts and sciences. In some cases, the VWO may grant exemption from one year of study in a bachelor’s programme in the applied arts and sciences.

For many bachelor’s programmes, completion of a specific subject cluster is required for admission. For admission to a programme at a technical university for example, the cluster Science and Technology is required. Students who have not completed this cluster can be admitted only after completing additional requirements.

Awarding organisation
  • International
Structure

The VWO diploma can be awarded after completion of one of two programmes: Atheneum or Gymnasium, the latter of which includes instruction in the classics (Latin and Greek). During the last three years of VWO (upper secondary education), students focus on completing the requirements of at least one of four subject clusters (profielen). Both Atheneum and Gymnasium students are required to complete a general education component as well as the subjects specific to their chosen cluster.

The four clusters are: science and technology; science and health; economics and society; culture and society. Each cluster is designed to prepare students for related programmes of study at tertiary level and fulfils entry requirements to HE in the Netherlands. Some subjects may be assessed internally in the penultimate year by means of examination, paper or project.

A final examination consisting of eight subjects is taken by all VWO pupils nationally at the end of the last year. In addition, all VWO students must pass a maths quiz (rekentoets).

Subject areas

In the last 3 years of VWO, students complete the requirements for at least one subject cluster (profiel). The requirements, including the number of hours per subject according to the law on secondary education are:

General Education Component: Atheneum

  • Dutch language and literature: 480
  • English language and literature: 400
  • A second modern foreign language: 480
  • Social studies:120
  • General science: 120
  • Culture and fine arts: 160
  • Physical education: 160

General Education Component: Gymnasium

  • Dutch language and literature: 480
  • English language and literature: 400
  • Latin or Greek language and literature: 760
  • Social studies: 120
  • General science:120
  • Physical education: 160

S​ubject Cluster Requirements for both Atheneum and Gymnasium Cluster Science and Technology:

  • Mathematics B: 600
  • Physics: 480
  • Chemistry: 440
  • Choice of 1 of the following: Nature, life and technology: 440; Computer science: 440; Biology: 480; Mathematics D: 440

Subject Cluster Requirements for both Atheneum and Gymnasium Cluster Science and Health:

  • Mathematics A: 520
  • Biology: 480
  • Chemistry: 440
  • Choice of 1 of the following: Nature, life and technology: 440; Geography: 440; Physics: 480

Subject Cluster Requirements for both Atheneum and Gymnasium Cluster Economics and Society:

  • Mathematics A: 520
  • Economics: 480
  • History: 440
  • Choice of 1 of the following: Management and Organisation: 440; Geography: 440; Social sciences:440;  Modern foreign language: 480

Subject Cluster Requirements for both Atheneum and Gymnasium Cluster Culture and Society:

  • Mathematics C: 480
  • History: 480
  • Choice of 1 of the following: Fine arts (art, music, drama, dance): 480; Philosophy: 480; Modern foreign language or Latin or Greek: 760
  • Choice of 1 of the following: Geography: 440; Social sciences: 440; Economics: 480
Levels

Acceptable as a group qualification satisfying general HE entrance requirements, and more specifically, entrance requirements to research-oriented higher education.

For further information on the qualification level you may wish to refer to UK NARIC, which is the UK body responsible for providing comparability of overseas qualifications.

Grading

10

uitmuntend

Outstanding

9

zeer goed

very good

8

goed

good

7

ruim voldoende

very satisfactory

6

voldoende

satisfactory/ pass

5

binja voldoende

almost satisfactory

4

onvoldoende

unsatisfactory

3

zeer onvoldoende

very unsatisfactory

2

slecht  

poor

1

zeer slecht

very poor

It should be noted that grades of 1, 2, 3, 9 and 10 are rarely awarded.

Assessment

Students are assessed both internally by the school and at the end of the 6th year via a centralised, national examination. In order to pass the national exam, the average grade cannot be lower than 5.5.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

The final grade obtained for the VWO exam is determined by a student’s marks on the final exam, the mark on the required math quiz and marks obtained in subjects that were not examined nationally. A final mark of 5 is permitted in only one of the subjects Dutch, English, and mathematics.

Guided / notional learning hours notes

Qualification size as broken down under section ‘Subject areas’.

This qualification does not currently attract UCAS Tariff points.

Key issues for UK HE admissions

HEPs may wish to consider setting subject requirements in addition to the overall result.

Timing of assessments and results

Central, national exams start in mid to late May; the results are available approximately four weeks later.

Qualification dates notes

This qualification is current.