Academic Profiles – Comparing the Dutch Education to US Education

Recently in the Orientation to Finnish Culture and Education course at EdGlo we completed presentations on our personal education background. This gave us the ability to reflect on the education system we are most familiar with as well as learn about our classmates’ backgrounds and their countries education systems.

While my most current experience is in the Japanese public education system, my formative years, and subsequently powerful memories and cultural preferences, were shaped in the US public school domain. My cultural upbringing in the states and work experience in East Asia made me believe I was quite versed in different education systems, but I found myself intrigued when a couple of my Belgium classmates talked about Academic Profiles in their secondary schooling.

Before I get into academic profiles, let me give a base line comparison between the US education system and the Belgian education system.

Belgian Education System

BSO = Vocational Secondary Education
KSO = Art Secondary Education
TSO = Technical Secondary Education
ASO = General Secondary Education

Today I’m only going to be focusing on secondary education in Belgium and specifically ASO academic profiling because I could spend all day just explaining Belgian secondary education. Also Belgium, and it’s education system, is so much more complicated then it appears. Click here to learn more about Belgium in general. It’s pretty funny.

American Education System

What is an Academic Profile?

As an American I liken academic profiling to picking a major in university, but instead you are a teenager trying to figure out what you are going to do for the rest of your life. Or at the very least what you want to study. Choosing a profile means choosing which courses you are going to take. Roughly (I’m not Belgian so please correct me if I’m wrong), the Profiles break down to:

  1. Math and Sciences
  2. Economics
  3. Languages
  4. Humanities and History

By choosing one, though sometimes you can mix, those are your electives classes until you graduate. With the assumption you with study the same thing in university. I also listed them in the hierarchy my two Belgian classmates indicated.

Comparing and Personal Thoughts

The US public school system doesn’t demand students to choose an academic profile. Instead, we have the freedom to choose electives (if they are offered at the school) in our own interests. If a student is interested in math and science then they will take more elective/advanced math and sciences class. The same is for art and humanities students. As students we are also encouraged to explore our interests. From my own personal example, I was very interested in music and language so I took orchestra and French all four years, but I also took an elective math course to be prepared for university math classes as I was not a strong math student.

This flexibility allowed me to explore my interests but not hinder my desire to be prepared for university. It also allows students to advance in subjects they like and prepare them for what they will study in university or in vocational training (my school an extensive agricultural and wood/metal working electives). I think my school really focused on providing opportunities for students.

However, I do relate with the hierarchy of subjects that my classmates expanded in their presentation. Event though the US doesn’t use academic profiles often schools will cut electives courses deemed unnecessary or unimportant, i.e. art, music, and other classes outside curriculum. Students are also pressured by schools and parents to take advanced courses in math, science and literature because it looks good on college applications and will prepare you for university.

Personally it seems silly to demand students to chose a profile that ultimately narrows your experiences. I understand that it’s suppose to prepare students for future jobs but most teenagers (and adults) have no idea what they want to do let alone like to do. It also seems to re-enforce classism and capitalism/neo-liberalism. As in you must be a productive citizen and the only way to be productive is to be prepared for your work, and to be prepared you must study in your field. I admit that last statement is a little hyperbolic.

It’s hard for me to imagine thriving in that academic system as I have many interests and love to study. I don’t like imagine myself in high school having to decide between what I like to study and what field I want to/should work in. It stresses me out just thinking about it.

What do you think?

Questions? Comments? Criticisms? I would love to hear about personal experiences in education systems with academic profiling.

A Profile of an EdGlo-19 Student

Avery Holm

Born and raised in a small town in Minnesota, USA.

Educational background

She grew up in the local public school system. In the local high school she joined the Arts Magnet Program where core subjects (English, science, social studies, etc.) were taught as interdisciplinary subjects with art. Across four years she explored creative writing and music, culminating in a senior capstone project. After graduating high school she ventured out of her hometown to attend Cottey College in Nevada (ne-VAY-da), Missouri.

Cottey College is a small women’s college that focuses on cultivating leadership and empowerment in young women. Originally a two year degree school it has started to offer four year bachelor programs in select fields. Avery spent her time there studying international relations, history, and French. Through her experiences in volunteering with after school programs and working as a student representative for the college president she became passionate about education. Through summer programs and her academic adviser she began studying Japanese outside of class hours. She also studied Social Justice on a school trip to Guatemala. Cottey became the springboard into her undergraduate studies.

After graduating with an Associate Degree, she transfer to Long Island University Global College (LIU Global) to finish a Bachelor’s Degree in Global Studies with a focus in comparative education. She studied in Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Turkey with the Comparative Religions and Cultures Program. She completed her independent semester and research project in Sapporo, Japan. For the last semester, Avery returned to Brooklyn, NYC to complete her thesis ‘How We Succeed: A Comparative Study of High Performing Public schools in New York City, Japan, and Finland’.

After university she work in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) for four years. She gained a lot of first hand experience with Japanese public elementary and junior high school education and that propelled her to find the EdGlo program.

Expectations for EdGlo

I have a lot of expectations for the program and for myself in the program. I’m really looking forward to a community of educators and education-loving people who can bring a lot of different perspectives from their cultures, education, work experiences, and life experiences. I want this program to challenge my views and beliefs in education and how we learn. I expect discomfort and challenges. EdGlo should be a program that forces and guides you to new perspectives and new ways of knowing so that you can build on your own experiences and knowledge.

For myself in EdGlo, I want my academic skills honed so that I can feel proud of my work. I want it to give me a critical lens for research and trends in education in my country and around the world. I expect it to be hard work and that I will work hard. I expect a lot of collaborative work with my classmates and potentially other classes or faculties in the university. I don’t expect (nor want) it to be an island with a choir singing to itself. I believe EdGlo with help me build knowledge and skills that will prove indispensable in my future. An much like my undergrad studies I want it to always be relevant and useless in any context, local or global.

Ikenobo Arrangement #6

I honestly don’t remember this lesson (it’s from awhile ago). This week just enjoy the before and after. Maybe you can find the differences and the potential lesson in the arrangement.

Looking at my first attempt again, the big green leaf really bothers me now. It’s too tall.

I really taking pictures of arrangments from the side. It gives you a whole new perspective. From the front, the plum branches look like they are all tangled together. But from the side, you can see how they are angled and layered.

Arr 6 compare

That leaf though. I need more confidence to cut down those big long leaves. In the end, I found the lesson. Cut the leaf.

See you next week for the next arrangement!

Less is More: Arrangement #4

Title Arr#4


Long time no see friends! Sorry for the delay in posting. Between visiting home for Christmas and preparing the end of the Japanese school year I have quite busy. Never fear though as I have continued taking ikebana lessons and I will continue to share them will you.


In this arrangement, I had a difficult time figuring out what to do with the long sweeping branches. I tried to create sort of a circular wind-blown shape. I am still afraid of stripping branches like these of their leaves. I am always worried I will make an irreversible mistake. So this time I left the branches as they were.

This week lesson taught me how not to be afraid of stripping leaves from branches. Sensei taught me how to create and utilize negative space in arrangments. For longer, fuller branches I shouldn’t be afraid to strip the middle sections of leaves. When I leave the branches as they are they draw the eye away from the pink roses that are meant to catch your eye. It gets in the way of the roses instead of balancing the arrangements. It’s like they are fighting each other to be seen. So the lesson of the week is: Less is more.

Arrangement #4

What I read this month – January Review


Book Post Banner Jan
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

This year I am trying to differentiate my reading. I love books and tend to collect them where ever I go (seriously though,  during the Global CRC Program I ended up with my suitcase half-filled with books I had picked up over the year). But between getting burned out from university reading and working full time, I have set a lot of my books to the side in favor of mindless fanfiction.

To me, fanfiction is fun and easy. It’s entertaining and usually not that complicated in wording or plot. It’s free and I can explore the same favorite universe many times over in a thousand different ways at any length (ranging from 600 words to over 300,000). Technically it’s still reading but I like variety and stories that challenge and push me mentally and morally. Fanfiction rarely does this.

So in 2018, I have decided to set aside time for intentional reading from my (physical) bookshelf. I’m not forcing myself to cut back reading fanfiction but rather challenging myself to read more printed books. At the end of every month, I will check in with you, dear reader, and share what I have been reading in the past month. I will give a quick review and maybe share a profound thought or two.

So let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?

Neither wolf nor dog

In my free time in January I have joyfully, albeit slowly, read Kent Nerburn’s Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder.

I’m not sure if I would have ever found this book if it wasn’t for my mother and our church. She recommended it to me a year or so ago and even gave it to me for Christmas. I let it age on my bookshelf before diving in.  I am close to finishing the book, and I have to say this is turning out to be a new favorite.

This is a quiet book with the force of a hurricane. It pulls no punches, speaks with frank honesty, and cuts through the romanticizations and the stereotypes placed on American Indians. This book is a bridge between Native Americans and white Americans or at the very least a step to truly understanding one another.

I’ll share some of my favorite parts in the February review since I’m not done yet.

A people's world history

There is no way I could read this book in a month. It’s a monster of a book. But I did start reading this book this January. Harman’s ‘A People’s History of the World‘ is my reading goal for 2018. I will be reading a little bit every day and make a note of what bits of history I read each month. It’s an interesting but dense book. To keep my concentration I read out loud. It helps me focus and stay on track. I’m currently in the first few chapters of the book, so covering the fact that several separate groups of people around the world made the switch from hunter-gather societies to an agriculture. Also learning about how the practice of grain storage influenced hierarchies and religion. Fascinating.





The Smell of Yukari: Arrangement #3

What is Yukari, you ask? It’s Eucalyptus! Though probably not the kind you are thinking of (ie Koala food).

So then, what kind of eucalyptus am I talking about?

Well, that is a difficult question. There are over 700 species of eucalyptus in the world and the majority of them are found in Australia. Only a few species can be found outside of Australia naturally. In this weeks arrangement, I worked with Eucalyptus Cinerea (I think – there are over 700 species people!) nicknamed “The Silver Dollar” because of its round silvery leaves.

This was the first time I ever used Eucalyptus in an arrangement. The first thing I noticed about this plant is its smell. It is very fragrant. It is has a sweet herby smell that comes from its sap. Eucalypts are part of the gum tree family so you best be prepared for some stickiness when handling this plant. Its leaves become sticky when you crush them, the smell might stay on your hands for a day or so.

The biggest difficulty with this arrangement was how to use the Yukari. When it comes to large branches with a lot of leaves, I don’t know how to use it. DoI leave it as is? Do I strip the branch of most of the leaves? Sometimes it is hard to know. Sometimes I too cautious. I don’t want to make a change I don’t like. I am in awe of my teacher’s confidence. She’ll rip off leaves without flinching. She knows what will look good even if it’s not “perfect.”

And that was my biggest lesson from this week. Don’t worry about it being perfect. Nature is rarely perfect. Don’t be afraid of cutting a leaf of a branch short or ripping off a bunch of leaves and disrupting the ones you leave behind. A singular branch might be bigger than the flower but give the flower room to blossom in the arrangement especially if it’s something as extravagant as a Dahlia.

Arrangement 3