This week sees the first 13 participants start the North-Netherlands Orientation Programme . The school-leavers will receive intensive counselling to help them in their choice of higher education. The Orientation Programme was initiated by the Augustinuscollege and Gomaruscollege secondary schools in Groningen, in association with the University of Groningen and Hanze University of Applied Sciences.
The orientation programme aims to help prospective students who are having trouble deciding which higher education programme to choose. The counselling helps them to build up a better picture of themselves, their strong points and their preferences. They also gain education and work experience, giving them a sound basis for choosing a higher education programme. The programme lasts three months. Pupils spend an average of two days a week on the programme, enabling them to work for the rest of the week. The first group comprises 13 people from the Northern provinces. A new group will start in January 2015.
The participants undergo interest and character assessments and learn to find answers to the question ‘What do I want and what can I do?’ But they also learn skills, including planning, budgeting and giving presentations. Careers are another focus point. ‘We work closely with the entrepreneur platform Ondernemerstrefpunt to give the participants work experience,’ explains Cato van der Vlugt, coordinator of the orientation project. ‘It’s useful for career orientation and practical placements. We take a broad-based approach and involve numerous parties. School deans and students of Psychology and Applied Psychology give training courses, and we have a drama teacher and invite regular guest speakers. The students also spend a lot of time in the field, visiting companies or shadowing employees, for example.’
Most of the current intake left secondary school this summer. One of them is Marthe Huisman. 'I have no idea what to choose. I'm not really attracted by any particular field or subject, nor do I know whether I want to go to university or a university of applied sciences. My first idea was to go travelling or something, but I thought it would be a good idea to do this first. I now want to concentrate on my skills and interests before I set off. This programme provides structure, is very intensive, and you meet people in the same boat. I think that's a great stimulus.' Van der Vlugt continues: ‘But we also have a teacher training graduate and two students who dropped out of previous programmes and want to switch direction. A new group will start in January and we expect a lot more “switchers”.’
A lot of secondary school pupils have trouble choosing a higher education programme. Research shows that long-running orientation programmes help. These findings are backed by experiences elsewhere. Similar programmes were equally encouraging, with eighty percent of the participants sticking to their choice.
Cato van der Vlugt
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