In this paper, we review the international comparative literature on the effects of educational differentiation (early selection and vocational orientation) on inequality. Inequality is conceptualized in two manners: inequality as dispersion of educational performance and inequality of educational opportunity by family background, sex, and immigrant status. First, an institutional perspective is offered through which to see the Netherlands in international comparison. The institutional perspective rests on four main characteristics of educational systems: stratification, standardization, vocational orientation, and trackmobility. Second, the most promising theoretical and empirical insights in the international literature are analyzed. Third, our theoretical assumptions are tentatively tested with the most recent PISA (2006) data. It is concluded that Dutch students' test scores are more equal (lower variance) than the Netherlands' education system's institutional characteristics would suggest. Measures of inequality of opportunity in the Netherlands, however, match the assumptions derived from the institutional perspective.
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