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18-09-2023 | During the 2021/22 academic year, the Netherlands saw a significant increase in early departures from Initial Vocational Education and Training (VET), with 30,242 young learners dropping out – the highest number in a decade.

The main reasons behind this surge are the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a competitive job market. VET schools’ closures and the shift to online learning led to reduced student motivation, while post-pandemic labor shortages lured many students away from education and into work.

However, it’s crucial to note that having a diploma is essential for future employment prospects, as highlighted by Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf: ‘When the economic climate changes, it is important one can fall bakck on a diploma.’

Statistics show that higher education levels correspond to lower unemployment rates. During the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment rose even faster among people with lower levels of education, or no diploma at all. One of the reasons is that low-skilled workers typically work on a flexible contract and are more likely to lose their job as soon as the economy declines. Incidentally, not all young people are equally likely to drop out.

Notably, dropout rates aren’t uniform; students facing multiple challenges, including psychological and financial problems, are four times more likely to leave prematurely. To address this, the government plans to launch a program in 2023/24 focusing on smoother course transitions and support for VET students preferring work over school, targeting both academic and social aspects.

While the Netherlands maintains a relatively low rate of early school leaving, dropout rates in VET programs have consistently been higher than in general education. Factors include educational quality, classroom environments, and, to a lesser extent, health issues. Research suggests that unclear expectations upon starting a VET program also contribute to early departures.

In summary, while efforts are underway to reduce dropout rates, achieving zero dropouts may remain an unattainable goal due to diverse factors influencing students’ decisions.

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