MBO (Middelbaar Beroepsonderwijs) is the abbreviation for secondary Vocational Education and Training (VET) in the Netherlands. VET is the main supplier to the labour market and is often regarded as the ‘foundation of the economy’ and the ‘backbone of society’. Approximately 40% of the Dutch working population has obtained a vocational qualification.

MBO colleges

The MBO sector consists of VET colleges comprising multidisciplinary VET colleges (roc's in Dutch), agricultural VET colleges (AOCs in Dutch) and specialised vocational colleges. All VET colleges have a strong regional orientation and function.

With the implementation of the WEB, the act on Vocational Education and Training, the two learning pathways in VET (work-based and school-based) were put in the same qualification framework. The school-based option with full-time education is called the BOL system and the work-based pathway, offering a combination of work and study, is called BBL. Both learning pathways offer programmes on four different levels.

Education in the Netherlands

The number of students in the work-based learning pathway versus the school-based learning pathway slightly fluctuates according to the economic situation. In both the school-based and the work-based pathways and on every training level, all students have to spend part of their time on work placements in recognized learning companies in order to obtain a diploma. The duration of the courses varies from six months to four years, depending on the level, the earlier achieved competences and other requirements of the course.

Adult education and courses

Adult education is accessible for adults from the age of 18 onwards and offers various programmes for their development. Adult education offers, for example, introductory courses for immigrants coming to the Netherlands, language and literacy courses at various levels and second-chance secondary education. It plays a major role in integration issues and contributes to social cohesion.

The colleges also offer education and courses on a contract basis, such as refresher courses and in-service training for employees and training programmes for the unemployed. This type of education provides for ‘lifelong learning’ opportunities.