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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Teaching and learning in vocational upper secondary education (MBO)


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.8Teaching and learning in vocational upper secondary education (MBO)

Last update: 27 November 2023

Curriculum, subjects and study load in hours

The teaching and examination regulations drawn up by the administration of the institution describe the content and organisation of each course offered by the institution and the way in which students are assessed.


Occupational standards

The occupational standards specify the competences, knowledge and skills that students must have acquired by the end of their degree. Schools use these standards in designing the degree and assessing students.

The MBO occupational standards are developed jointly by the business community and the education sector, working together in sector units within the Foundation for Cooperation on Vocational Education, Training and the Labour Market (SBB). Each occupational standard describes:

  • what working in a specific occupation involves
  • the core activities and work processes, and
  • the competences, knowledge and skills that a junior practitioner must possess in order to be qualified for the occupation in question.

 After being approved by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, the occupational standards must be used by all ROCs, AOCs and specialist schools. The standards can be adapted to changing requirements on the labour market.

 A revised qualification framework applies from the school year 2016/2017 (see section 6.9 for more details) in order to improve the match between vocational secondary education and the labour market, and encourage more students to go on to higher education after completing their MBO course. The total number of qualifications has been reduced, making it easier for students to choose.

 The new occupational standards are divided into a basic component and a specialised component:

  • The basic component is divided again into general requirements and occupation-specific requirements. The general requirements are set by the government and cover the subjects Dutch, arithmetic, career and citizenship education, and – for MBO level 4 courses only – English. The occupation-specific requirements relate to the core activities and work processes that all occupations covered by the standard have in common.
  • The specialised component describes the activities and work processes for each of the job roles covered by the occupational standard.

 Each occupational standard also includes optional components. Attaining these can enhance a student’s employability or ease their transition to further education. Any optional components are recorded on the student’s MBO diploma.

Information on the study load and minimum number of course hours can be found in section 6.7


Secondary vocational education and the labour market

The government is taking several measures to ensure that MBO courses are able to adapt to changing requirements on the labour market. MBO courses should be an attractive choice for students who want to increase their chances on the labour market. And it is important for the economy to have a sufficient supply of skilled workers.


A smoother transition to MBO

The government wants to give pupils a smoother transition from pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) to MBO. It has introduced various measures to achieve this:

  • From their third year, pupils in the basic vocational or middle-management vocational programmes of VMBO can start taking MBO subjects and thus obtain an MBO level 2 certificate in three years.
  • Since the school year 2016/2017, schools can also offer VMBO pupils in the last two years of a middle-management vocational programme a phased transfer to an MBO level 3 course.
  • Schools may offer pupils in all VMBO learning programmes except the basic vocational programme a phased transfer to an MBO level 4 course.

Extra guidance is available for pupils who transfer from VMBO to MBO.


Teaching methods and materials

Nothing is laid down in the Adult and Vocational Education Act (WEB) regarding teaching methods or materials. It is up to the institutions themselves to organise courses and teaching in such a way that students are able to obtain a diploma.