Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Dutch assessment turns into an assessment of the Dutch

The Dutch course is over now, and I'm please to say I passed. I'm afraid to say however that this blog post is mainly going to be a moan about the way the school grades exam results.

The UvA grades Dutch language course exam results on the following scale:

  • good
  • satisfactory
  • weak
  • very poor
This seems very strange to me. All the grades are on the bad side of good, there's no "excellent" grade achievable, the best you can achieve regardless of your performance is "good". Personally I'd rather ditch this assessment scheme and use numbers instead, at least you know where you are with numbers. These terms are so open to interpretation and cultural differences. One American peer of mine at school really found the lack of an "excellent" mark unbelievable, and I am always very disappointed to get a "satisfactory" grade. Satisfactory for me is "only just enough to pass, but a close call", but this is the second best mark you can get at UvA.

After 72 hours of Dutch practice in only 6 weeks, this scheme seems a little unfair but this scoring scheme turns out to be typically Dutch.

To be "excellent" in the Netherlands is to be "uitstekend", literally translated into "sticking out", or in other words "freakish". To be different from everyone else, surprisingly, is frowned upon here. I'm amazed by the contradiction in Dutch society which is supposedly one of the most liberal and open-minded in the world, but yet hates to see people achieving above the norm. Doing just enough to pass has become the accepted way to be in the Netherlands. And I worry for the nation I really do. Don't they realise that the rest of the world, especially the developing world, is trying very hard to be outstanding (a.k.a competitive). I can see the Netherlands slipping down a well greased slope unless they pull their socks up, try harder and forget their inhibitions about being uitstekend.


Anonymous said...

Actually being ‘different’ is very much encouraged here in the Netherlands. If you haven’t noticed this yet, the Dutch are way individualistic. They may have a set of mainstream norms and values but they keep a very individualistic culture within themselves. Perhaps the right term you should use is the Dutch veer away from ‘giving praises’ and ‘giving credits’.

The Dutch by nature are low-profile types. They do not want to call attention to themselves. They do not want to stand out in the crowd. Of course, if they do not want it for themselves why would they want it for others? “Doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg”, says it all.

Fact is, the Dutch are very competitive and very, very selfish but they don’t show it to the world with cijfers and medals. Praising, elevating, and crediting someone is for them total BS. To be blunt about it, they see it fit for people with low self-esteem as there is no need to tickle other people’s ego.

Well, what do you say, just a different mentality eh? Cultures clash I guess.

(clicked your blog from somewhere)

Michael B said...

Nou, je hebt dan geen 'uitstekend' kunnen behalen, maar je verdient toch een schouderklopje! Congrats on passing your Dutch exams. Now that you're well-versed in the language and weird psyche that drives most Dutch, I guess you'll be trawling the Nederlands-talige sectie in de videoland op de hoek. Go and rent 'Zwartboek' on DVD, I expect a synopsis on this blog, in DUTCH ;-)

Jan said...

Rule number one: don't get your head above surface level... It might hurt.
Remember the Calvinism over here. We got a saying "Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg."

Congrats with passing your exam. And if it's an excellent or satisfactory. It's good enough.

Of je de taal goed beheerst, blijkt pas in het dagelijkse leven. Succes daarmee.