Flemish pupils pass Dutch class, but too few pass maths

Flemish pupils pass Dutch class, but too few pass maths
Credit: Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels

While second-year secondary school pupils (age 14) in Flanders score satisfactory for Dutch, their mathematics scores are still insufficient, as shown by tests taken in May this year among 3,500 pupils for maths and 5,500 pupils for Dutch.

For Dutch, 95% of pupils in Flemish-speaking education achieve the basic literacy attainment targets for reading and 98% achieve the basic literacy attainment targets for listening.

In maths, the percentages are considerably lower: while 92% achieve the basic literacy attainment targets for the 'tables and diagrams' section, only 85% score sufficiently for metrification. In the numeracy section, only 78% reached the attainment targets. Finally, students score the worst on geometry, with barely 75% meeting the targets.

"Investing in Dutch seems to be paying off, but these results show that we also have to focus heavily on mathematics," Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts told Belga News Agency. "These results certainly underline the importance of our efforts to improve the quality of education."

Teachers matter

This is the first time that the new attainment targets for mathematics and Dutch – which were introduced in the 2019-2020 school year – were tested. In total, the Support Centre for Test Development and Polls (STEP), a collaboration between KU Leuven and UAntwerp, tested the math skills of 3,740 students in 115 schools, and the Dutch skills of 5,568 students in 193 schools.

The survey consisted of four parts for mathematics, and two parts and a practical writing test for Dutch.

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The pupils were all in the first stage of the so-called "A" or "B-stream" of secondary education. Pupils from the B stream (those who started secondary education without a primary education certificate – a minority of Flemish pupils) scored less well on both subjects.

In the A-stream (those who do have a primary education certificate), 88% of the pupils achieve the final attainment levels for reading, compared to 79% in the B-stream. Additionally, the survey found that, across the board, the teacher had a great influence on the results of pupils: they scored better if their teacher had high expectations and/or already had a lot of experience in teaching.

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