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Assessment of highly skilled migrants is too ‘Dutch’

8 October 2007, 00:00

When highly skilled migrants come to the Netherlands to practice their profession, they are assessed from a very Dutch point of view.

More weight is given to diplomas than to work experience, and the ability to speak Dutch is imperative. These are the findings of Astrid Scholten, who studied the use of portfolio assessments for highly skilled migrants in her doctoral thesis. She will be awarded the degree of doctor on 28 September 2007 at the University of Twente.

The contrast is great. In the Netherlands, students, researchers and employees are encouraged to gain skills and experience abroad. Yet immigrants coming to the Netherlands face rules and regulations that are typical of the Dutch national context and culture. The upshot of this is that relevant work experience scores lower than having the ‘right’ diploma. And the bridge to finding suitable work is first and foremost the ability to communicate in Dutch.

Scholten investigated how a portfolio instrument could be used to facilitate recognition of the competencies possessed by highly skilled migrants. For a number of years now, Nuffic – the Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education – has been calling for more attention for the recognition of prior learning in addition to the evaluation of academic qualifications. In fact, between 2000 and 2004, a number of pilot projects were conducted to see how portfolios could be used to assess, evaluate and recognize the competencies of highly skilled migrants.

The subjects of the projects included secondary school teachers, medical doctors and refugees with diplomas that are not officially recognized in the Netherlands. The pilot projects are included in Scholten’s doctoral thesis as exploratory case studies. To enable comparison of the cases of teachers, doctors and refugees, Scholten presents them in terms of theoretical building blocks.

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