School education system of Netherlands, which is recognized as one of the best in the world according to International Student Assessment (PISA), has one significant distinction from other systems, which appears in early identification of abilities and inclinations using special Cito test, which is designed to identify the type of secondary education best suited for a concrete student. This test is held in eighth form for 12-year-old pupils. After receiving the results of the test and recommendations of teachers, secondary education starts from ninth form and at this stage branching by certain paths according to the test results begins. It is possible to change paths, yet such situation is more of the exception from the rule.
The most advanced and prestigious level is the VWO level – preparatory scientific education — where students are offered intensified programs which include study of Greek and Latin languages, additional philosophy and foreign languages courses. At the end of 6 year path graduates receive VWO diploma, which give them opportunity to enter research universities and, if they wish, to universities of applied sciences.
For pupils with smaller score HAVO level is suggested – general secondary education. The course, which lasts for 5 years consist of 2 phases – first, 3 years long phase, is common for all the students, while second imply separation by sub profiles. There are four sub profiles: “culture and society” – arts and languages, “economics and society” – social sciences, history and economics, “nature ad health” – natural sciences and further medical, “nature and technology” – natural sciences. Graduates receive HAVO diploma, which gives them opportunity to enter higher professional education system or take additional year of education and receive VWO diploma.
For students who scored less the next level is designed – VMBO – 4-year professional education course, which includes the study of general subjects and receipt of professional preparation. This course is divided to 5 sub profiles: “Theoretical Learning Path” provide the largest stratum of theoretical knowledge. It is designed to prepare middle management and provides the “middle-level applied education” (MBO) level of tertiary education. “Middle Management-oriented Learning Path” is composed of an equal amount of vocational training and theoretical education. “Mixed Learning Path” is something in between two previous profiles. “Basic Profession-oriented Learning Path” focuses on vocational trainings and prepares for vocational training at the MBO level of tertiary education. “Practical Education” mostly consists of vocational training.
In addition, at all of the levels, “Learning Path Supporting Education” is offered, which is aimed at students with behavioral and educational problems. These pupils have special conditions, such as much smaller classes and specialized trainers. After 4 years, graduates receive VMBO diploma or they can transfer to HAVO course and take additional year of study.
It is possible for graduates with HAVO diploma in their last two years of education to take part in pre-university VWO program and pass the specific test. This procedure can provide an access to superior level of higher education. 
The results of the test have a huge influence on family’s process of decision making in the field of child’s future career path, in fact, the results of the test determine the kid’s future occupation. Sometimes mistakes occur, when some of the children who have abilities to study at higher academic levels are sent to study at lower levels. Different researches have shown that 30% of talented kids attend the VMBO, the lower level to which 60% of twelve-year-olds are initially sent. The consequences of such mistake can be disastrous. In several years, such kids can fall behind their peers, who have been sent to higher academic levels. Advance from lower to higher levels demand much more additional work, time and motivation afterwards. Parents do have a right to take part in the process of decision making of the school, yet not all of them use this right. 
Some critics in Netherlands note that moral injuries inflicted by this pragmatic system to 12 years old children can be extremely painful; they change not only the developing social connections in teenager groups, but also negatively affect their self-appraisal and, indirectly, their whole life in the future. Children are very different and sometimes they uncover their potential talents and abilities in different age periods. No system of testing is designed for an individual approach; it is standardized for maximum objectivity, which can become insurmountable obstacle on the way of realization of personal plans, hopes and desires.
Nevertheless, what are the advantages of Cito test, which make Dutch society accept the system of mandatory testing of 12 years old pupils? Important argument is that the Cito test is an effective tool of the selection of the most appropriate secondary and further education. Due to the results of this test the further education becomes more personalized, because after the distribution, the level of pupils in a class is roughly the same, and there is no need to concentrate on “week” students, the program is becoming more or less difficult according to intellectual potential of a given group of students. Moreover, the results of the exams can also be used by the Education Inspectorate to check the performance of the school. Dutch secondary education gives very good results and high ratings in comparison with lots of countries, and this is the main stimulus to maintain the status-quo.
Transition to the concept of personality development, which is peculiar for the 21st century, is also considered as a progressive novation in Kazakhstani educational system. At least “Analytical Digest Secondary Education in Kazakhstan: State and Perspectives” proposes the development of new standards and individualized educational programs as priorities for the coming years.  This will allow the development of the personalized specification of education, consideration of the abilities of every person, and effective professionalization. When talented and gifted student consider studying with average and weak students this lead to a regressive education, as authors of the report note.
Repudiation of traditional education in favor of new educational paradigm can significantly change the most criticized social sphere in Kazakhstan – system of school education, which had already suffered many reforms for the recent years. It is doubtful that Kazakhstani society will be able to perceive the Dutch method with its high levels of differentiation. The solution to the problem may be so-called specialized schools – schools with physics-mathematical or chemo-biological directions, and also different linguistic gymnasiums and lyceums, arts and sports schools, which use their own criteria of selection of most talented students. It is known that entrance tests for Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools are developed jointly with National Institute for Educational Measurement Cito (Netherlands) and Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth CTY (USA). 
It is obvious that school education all over the globe is moving towards the implementation of professionalization on earlier stages, yet with the different speed and conditions. Therefore, it should be one of the most important trends in the sphere of secondary education in Kazakhstan in the nearest future.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Nadirova Gulnar Ermuratovna graduated from the Oriental Faculty of Leningrad State University, in 1990 she defended her thesis on the Algerian literature at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, in 2006 doctoral thesis - on modern Tunisian literature at the Tashkent Institute of Oriental Studies, Professor.