strengthen their school's reputation are thus induced to give teaching effectiveness, as assessed by the external exam, first priority.
For generations French and Dutch upper secondary schools have faced a competitive environment that is similar in many ways to the one faced by American colleges and universities. Funding has been on a per-student basis, so schools experiencing an increase in applications have had an incentive to expand up to the capacity of their physical plant. Schools with strong reputations get more applications than they can accept and are, in effect, rewarded by being allowed to admit the "best" from their pool of applicants.
In the United States access to quality teaching and supportive peers depends on parental ability to buy or rent a home in a suburb with excellent schools. In France and the Netherlands access to the top upper secondary schools depends primarily on achievement in lower secondary school. This means that parents who want their child to attend the best upper secondary schools must make sure their child does well in lower secondary school.
The Netherlands has three types of general secondary schools—the VWO (pre-university, secondary education institution-most difficult), HAVO (senior general secondary education institution-next most difficult), and MAVO (junior general secondary education institution-least difficult)—and a system of lower vocational schools—LBO/LEAOs (junior secondary vocational education institutions) and KVBOs (agricultural junior secondary vocational education institution)—that prepare students for both occupation-specific and general education exams. The first-year curriculum is supposed to be the same in all schools, so that students can transfer between schools if necessary. In succeeding years, the curricula and rigor diverge. Rigor and workloads are greatest at the six-year VWOs, somewhat less demanding at the five-year HAVOs, and still less demanding at the four-year MAVOs. These schools also differ in the foreign languages offered and the standard to which they are taught. The LBOs devote considerable time to occupation-specific curricula, so less time is available for general studies. Advice to parents about which type of school is appropriate for their child is based on the pupil's record in primary school and in some cases standardized tests (Nijhof and Streumer, 1988). Parents have the right, however, to select the type of school and which school of that type their child will enter. In addition, there are three parallel systems of education—a locally administered public system, a Catholic system, and a Protestant system—so parents have a great deal of choice.
About a decade ago English and Scottish parents were given the right to send their children to schools outside their normal attendance areas. Two years after choice became operational in Scotland, 9 percent of pupils entering secondary school nationally (11 to 14 percent in urban areas) attended a school outside their