I’m afraid of the Netherlands… I’m afraid of the world


Dutch Word of the Day
zuigt: sucks
Nederlands school zuigt.
Dutch school sucks.

This is one of those special “Thank God I’m American” moments. Here’s what happens when you go to school in the Netherlands:

Basisonderwijs (Basis School) 4-12 years old: You’re in school with everyone else, playing with blocks and numbers and words and minding your own business when, BAM!

Voortgezet Onderwijs (continued education, this is the crossroads) 12 years old: You take an exam that is meant to determine the rest of your life. The exam is called the CITO Exam. There are three things that can happen to you after the CITO exam.

a.) Voorbereidend Middelbaar Beroepsonderwijs, VMBO (preparatory middle-level vocational education) 12-16: This is what happens to you when you don’t do too well on the exam. This is basically trade school. You’ll learn mad languages and some other things…but it’s basically trade school. It’s impossible to get from here to university. After this, it’s kind of the end of the educational road.

b.) Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs, HAVO (higher general continued education) 12-17: So you did a little better on the exam. Now you’re here. This has more liberal arts stuff, but it’s not a pass to university. You can however, get a BA later on, but not the BA and Masters track program you can get at…

c.) Voorbereidend Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs, VWO, (pre-university secondary education)12- 18: Congratulations, you smug preteen fart! You did very well on your CITO! Now you’re in the top eschelon of education with only 10% of the nation. You’ll do very nicely in University, cause you’re totally on track for that!

For those who are familiar with European education, you might wonder why this bothers me so much. Well, I’m a terrible test taker, especially of the standardized kind. Especially when I was 12. If I had grown up in Holland, I’d have been a carpenter by now.

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with carpentry (Jesus used it to make an honest living) But something tells me that I would hate being bravenewworlded into something at the age of 12.

On the brightside: They have no juries, therefore no jury duty. There’s French Febreze. They don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. This is my kind of town.

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1 Response to “I’m afraid of the Netherlands… I’m afraid of the world”


  1. 1 Gracie Hill February 16, 2007 at 15:00

    Hey, you’re sooo right! I’m Dutch, and I suck at taking tests.. however I did make it into VWO and University, but I can tell you that there has always been a big shadow hanging over my educational life.. Also, I think taking a test at 12 can never represent all the potential that a child can have.. children change and grow so much between the age of 12 and 18, it’s a wrong and unfair system.
    (By the way I enjoy reading your blog, Amsterdam was my city, I’ve swapped it for a city in Scotland, but it’s fun to read about other people’s views on my good ol’ town)


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