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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National reforms in vocational education and training and adult learning


14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

14.3National reforms in vocational education and training and adult learning

Last update: 31 March 2024


Cabinet invests €22 million in lifelong development from Growth Fund

The Minister of Education, Culture and Science  committed to investing a total of more than €22 million in projects for lifelong development (leven lang leren - LLO). This will be dedicated to 17 grant applications of the first funding application round. The funds comes from the National Growth Fund for the so-called LLO. It concerns 11 large projects with a subsidy of up to €22 million and 6 small projects with a maximum grant of €125,000. The projects pay specific attention to the energy and raw materials transition.

Lifelong learning and the business community 
The grant applications are aimed at collaborations between the labour market and education, specifically when it comes to training professionals for the transition to cleaner energy and raw materials. In this way, the projects give an impulse to the joint innovation, learning, training and working of education and business. It also accelerates the development of the right skills for the demands of the regional labour market, in particular through the use of reskilling and upskilling.

In the second round of the National Growth Fund the Dutch government has announced that it is investing almost €400 million in the National Growth Fund proposal 'the National LLO Catalysator'. To this end, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science published 2 subsidy schemes with multiple application rounds in July 2023. The second round of applications for both grant schemes will open on the first of April 2024.


Equal treatment and more recognition for students in vocational education


The Minister of Education, Culture and Science wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives that students in vocational education (MBO) deserve equality and more recognition. The minister is working on a social revaluation of secondary vocational education, by, among other things, ensuring equal treatment in legislation and regulations, and entitlement to the same facilities and student discounts.

In addition to equal treatment and the same opportunities for these students, the minister wants to better support and strengthen the participation of MBO students, in line with colleges and universities. The minister already has regular consultations with the Youth Organization for Vocational Education (JOBmbo) to hear what students need and what bottlenecks they experience. Because this is an important part of the educational field, the minister will submit a proposal to Parliament after the summer to legally record this consultation, just as is the case in higher education.

New action plan to tackle early school leaving


The covid-19 pandemic and a tightening of the labour market have led to higher number of early school leaver in the vocational education and training (MBO) sector of the Netherlands. To tackle this trend, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will introduce a new action plan in the summer of 2023.

The action plan will take a holistic approach to the issue of early school leaving, thus paying specific attention to the living environment of the (potential) drop-outs. To adopt such a holistic approach, the Ministry is working closely with municipalities, schools and other government bodies. The objective will be to reduce the number of early school leaves to 18,000 by 2026.

MBO students are also entitled to a board grant


From 1 January, MBO students will also be entitled to a grant if they become a board member of a political youth organization or of a national organization that is committed to MBO. This already applies to higher education students. The exact rules for applying for a grant will be published later in January.


Government to boost secondary vocational education and tackle inequality of opportunity

News item | 15-07-2022 | 16:00

The government is investing in strengthening secondary vocational education (MBO). The focus will be on boosting equality of opportunity, creating a better match between training and the labour market, and enhancing quality. According to education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf, MBO graduates are vital for the economy and society in general, but it is necessary to strengthen this form of education. To this end, the government is investing several hundred million euros in the three priority areas for MBO.

In his letter to the House of Representatives, Mr Dijkgraaf wrote that secondary vocational education is the driver of major transformations in sectors like healthcare, housing and energy: ‘The close link between classroom learning and practical training provides many opportunities for over half a million young people. Well-trained professionals are crucial to the success of all the major transformations that society needs to make. That’s why it’s important to invest in strengthening MBO.’

The minister stresses the importance of giving students in secondary vocational education and higher education (HBOs and universities) equal status. ‘A lot needs to happen before this can become reality,’ Mr Dijkgraaf said. ‘It includes becoming aware of the language we use, increasing involvement in student life, and promoting study and work experience abroad.’

New approach

The minister is engaged in dialogue with students, teaching staff, MBO institutions, employers, local authorities, associations for vocational education and teachers’ unions about the government’s ambitions and strategies for strengthening MBO. He is appealing for creativity throughout the sector, with students’ personal growth as the starting point. Mr Dijkgraaf intends to outline his vision for the years ahead in a ‘Programme of Work for MBO’, to be presented after Budget Day. His current letter to parliament sets the parameters for this.

Three priorities

Education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf identifies three priorities for the MBO Programme of Work:

  1. Boosting equality of opportunity
    The minister wants to remove current obstacles for students in vocational and professional education and encourage more young people to enrol. ‘I’ve recently spoken to students from deprived backgrounds, whose prospects were poor. Thanks to their own motivation to overcome the obstacles and with the help of inspiring teachers, they eventually achieved so much more than anyone in their circles had expected. That’s the kind of talent I want to see flourish in MBO.’

    Mr Dijkgraaf sees abolishing work placement discrimination in MBO as a top priority. Because previous measures have not been sufficiently effective, he is considering a more radical strategy to promote objective selection and recruitment by placement providers on the basis of a candidate’s competences and personal learning goals, instead of the provider’s personal preference. To tackle placement discrimination in concrete terms, the government aims to reach agreement on a Work Placement Pact with the private sector and educational institutions. To this end, employers, schools, students, teachers, placement supervisors and the education and social affairs ministries are currently fleshing out appropriate measures and activities.

    Minister Dijkgraaf is also pursuing efforts to tackle school dropout, improve guidance for vulnerable students in the transition from school to work and strengthen continuous learning trajectories from vocational to professional education (VMBO-MBO-HBO).


  1. Creating a better match between training and the labour market
    Fortunately, by far the majority of MBO graduates soon find work. However, there is scope for improving alignment between their formal training and the job market. For instance, some MBO students drop out because they made the wrong course choice. Mr Dijkgraaf therefore wants to improve career orientation and guidance, including by giving students more information about the labour market.

    Some students entering MBO are not yet ready to make a choice, and need broader orientation before doing so. The minister wants to set up an experimental ‘taster’ programme for them in the 2023/2024 school year. This would allow the students to dip into a range of disciplines before making their choice.

    Jointly with fellow minister Dennis Wiersma, whose portfolio includes lifelong learning, Mr Dijkgraaf wants to increase the availability of block or day release vocational training (BBL) for lateral-entry candidates, especially in labour market sectors with staff shortages. Existing legislation will be expanded to allow a more tailored approach for training these lateral-entry candidates.


  1. Enhancing quality, research and innovation in MBO
    More and more young people are failing to meet standards in reading, arithmetic, citizenship education and digital literacy. Mr Dijkgraaf therefore wants to better monitor MBO students’ basic skills. This will require a clear vision of the basic skills and the educational objectives they serve. The minister also wants to improve the quality of teaching in citizenship education and digital literacy.

    Finally, the minister wants to boost the innovative power of MBO. The Ontwikkelkracht programme aims to achieve a seamless alignment between research and innovation at MBO, higher education and the wider research community. The minister wants to explore scope for setting up a network of innovative teachers and teacher-researchers, supported with special scholarships and prizes, similar to the Higher Education Award. He is also keen to expand the multidisciplinary teacher teams (‘practoraten’) that focus on applied research aimed at innovation and strengthening of MBO.


The government is investing several hundred million euros in the three priorities for MBO. Of the funding announced in the coalition agreement, almost €200 million is available structurally for MBO. This summer, decisions will be made on how to allocate the remainder, part of which the government may also invest in MBO. In addition, substantial sums are being invested from the National Growth Fund, including €167 million which has been unconditionally earmarked for the Lifelong Catalyst programme (LLO Katalysator) for MBO and higher education.

No policy reforms or updates.