Flexibility of Educational Systems and Social Inequality in Educational Outcomes

Several aspects of the flexibility of educational systems such as external (end-of-phase adjustment: stacking degrees) or internal (within-phase adjustment: dealing with misallocation by track mobility, retaining grades, acceleration or individual support programmes) flexibility have been studied distinctly. However, they have not yet been systematically integrated within an overall-view on flexibility as a system characteristic. Moreover, it has not been studied yet to which extent flexibility can reduce (or even increase) social inequality in educational outcomes (skills, final degrees, labour market prospects, and civic outcomes). This project aims to fill this gap by analysing the relation between policy reforms, different types of flexibility, and outcomes both from a Dutch and an international perspective.

The main aims of this project are: to develop indicators for the external and internal flexibility of the Dutch educational system educational and to test these indicators empirically; to develop a national database documenting relevant policy reforms; and to analyse educational flexibility in an international perspective over time utilising existing data sources (e.g. PISA, OECD database).

Funded by: Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO)

Duration: 2017- October 2023

General summary

R. van der Velden, P. Bles, M. Somers, D. Webbink (2023), Flexibiliteit Nederlands voortgezet onderwijs onder druk. ROA brochure


  • D. Becker, K. Wessling, (2020), The impact of classroom, school, neighborhood, and institutional factors on teachers’ expectations, ROA Research Memorandum; ROA-RM 2020/04
  • P. Bles, R. van der Velden, R. Ariës (2020), Is there an opportunity-performance trade-off in secondary education? ROA-RM-2020/9, Maastricht.
  • Wessling, K., R. van der Velden (2021), Flexibility in educational systems: Concept, indicators, and directions for future, ROA-RM-2021/2, Maastricht.
  • Jacobs, M., R. van der Velden, L. van Vugt (2021). Does lowering the bar help? Results from a natural experiment in high-stakes testing in Dutch primary education. ROA-RM-2021/4, Maastricht.
  • Jacobs, M., R. van der Velden, L. van Vugt (2023), High-Stakes Testing and Educational Careers: Exploiting the Differences in Cut-Offs between Test Recommendations in the Netherlands, Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness https://doi.org/10.1080/19345747.2023.2242342