VOKA Chair for Study Orientation

Young people make choices regarding their education before and during secondary education on the basis of recommendations from class councils and based on their grades. Nonetheless, their parents’ preferences and perceptions, as well as the influence of friends or classmates can also play a big role. These choices about what to study are not properly informed by scientific tools that gauge a pupil’s interests, competencies, motivation and attitudes. Consequently, a pupil’s background (socio-economic status, gender...) sometimes has too much of an impact on their choice of studies. This can lead many students in the wrong direction, meaning that they often end up leaving ASO (Academic secondary education) for other types of school, known in Dutch as the ‘Waterfall system’. This has a huge cost for both society and on an individual level (demotivation, unqualified school-leavers, shortage in certain sectors, etc.). Pupils’ trajectories are also very variable, depending on contextual factors (teachers, the approach of the school, etc.).

During the last legislature, the Flemish government started developing tools to help student decide what to study. The Columbus tool was developed for higher education, to complement institution-specific tools (e.g. SIMON at Ghent University). However, it is specifically aimed at the third grade of secondary education, meaning we still lack orientation tools to help students make decisions before or during secondary education. Yet at the beginning and end of the first grade of secondary education, young people already face an important and often decisive decision which can have an impact on their later career and the labour market. For this reason we need to develop research-based tools to help students make the best decision, most suited to their own interests and talents.

Through this chair, the Voka (Flemish Chamber of Commerce) Shared Services CVBA wants to support academic research into tools to support young people when making decisions about secondary education, in order to promote the optimal development of talents and to facilitate the transfer from education into the labour market.


In line with the existing orientation tools Columbus and SIMON, the academic research should above all seek to inform young people and encourage them to reflect and explore. Consequently, there will be research into various aspects and variables that are relevant for study orientation, ranging from the development of (career-related) interests to generic, cognitive, technical, or motor skills. These instruments must be validated and tested by representative samples of pupils from a variety of types and directions of education. 

The development of these orientation tools should also eventually result in a (digital) personal talent report that offers prospective students a range of information about their interests and talents, and about how these relate to potential later careers, as well as the appropriate learning paths which are then explained in more detail via an online platform. The chair will also research the effect of this kind of test on the actual decisions made by pupils, as compared to existing initiatives for orientation. 


Voka nationaal (Flanders' Chambers of Commerce and Industry)




Prof. Wouter Duyck (Department of Experimental Psychology – Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences)