News Articles

National exams an ordeal for Dutch high school students

Progress featured daily in the media

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

UTRECHT - Over 200,000 secondary school students in the Netherlands are currently writing their final exams, meriting widespread coverage in the country's media. One daily newspaper attempted to summarize the ordeal of the students by featuring a front-page photograph of a none-too-cheerful teenager gazing pensively into space, with a caption stating: "So you are sitting in the school gym, where you have spent many a year working out your muscles. But now the program is only mental gymnastics, needing to dig very deep for those unbelievably difficult answers."

Every daily newspaper empathizes with the students, by featuring stories such as the lament by Algemeen Dagblad that exam time "means big bucks for chemists, drug stores, smart shops and dealers" as "nervous final exam candidates reach for sedatives or a little something to pep them up".

While most stick to tea and energy drinks, reports the newspaper, "heavier stuff such as speed and Ritalin are not unheard of". According to the experts, using those substances are not a good idea. Ritalin may help the student through an all-night study session but makes it worse once the effect has worn off, and say that it is not very smart to go into exams suffering from something that resembles jet lag.


In the national daily Volkskrant, best-selling author Renate Dorrestein admits that she took her own final exams in a state of mortal fear and panic. She says she periodically has nightmares, fearing having to sit through exams on a subject she has not been taught.

The author is one of ten celebrities who have agreed to follow this year's exams for the paper. Having completed the exam of Dutch literature, she reckoned it was definitely do-able, though she complained that the texts she was given presented "a museum-like Netherlands ... with no trace of the multicultural world we live in."