Recommendation 5: Promote and reward student motivation and excellence

Recommendation 5: To enhance student motivation and promote excellence, build teacher capacity to better respond to individual learning needs, reinforce rewards for excellence at every level of education through the opportunity for track promotion, set high expectations through a relevant curriculum, and foster parental engagement in education

Build teacher capacity to better respond to individual learning needs, focusing on the promotion of excellence

To foster student motivation, teachers need to be able to respond to the different learning needs of all students, including higher performers or those with the potential to be a high performer. Providing students with a challenging and stimulating learning environment that fosters excellence calls for a flexible and relevant curriculum, which requires a solid understanding of the differences between students in the classroom. Further investment in differentiated teaching skills are much needed (see Chapter 5).

Reinforce rewards for excellence throughout the system

In the current system, suboptimal performance can be penalised by grade repetition and down-streaming, while excellence is not sufficiently rewarded. more opportunities could be given to (potentially) strong performing students in each track to pursue promotion to higher tracks and/or follow subjects at a higher level. Entry into higher education could also be more competitive. many higher education institutions are introducing additional selection criteria for their most popular programmes in the Netherlands, which increases competition between the applicants.

Strengthen parental involvement in the learning of their children

PISA shows that parents’ expectations are strongly and positively associated with positive dispositions towards learning and student performance. The evidence suggests that Dutch parents, especially those from a low and average socio-economic background, should do more to support their children in their learning. In addition, schools should take a more pro-active role in strengthening the partnership between parents and the larger school community.


1. Kuyper and van der Werf (2012) define excellent students as those who score in the top 5% of the performance distribution. They use the results of three different tests for this: 1) CITO test implemented at the end of primary education; 2) entry examination in secondary education; and 3) the intelligence test “NIO”. The study is based on “Voortgezet Onderwijs Cohort Leerlingen” (VOCL) data.

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