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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Legislation and official policy documents


15.Legislation and official policy documents

Last update: 27 November 2023


Organisation and governance


Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

The Constitution (1815) (Grondwet voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden) lays down the freedom of teaching (amendment of 1848). The concern and inspection is with the government. Citizens have the right to start a school and to choose between public and private education which is based on a religious, social or educational approach (private education).

The Constitution also stipulates  that there are to be sufficient facilities for public education in primary education in every municipality. Only rarely can this take place in a non-public school, for example in schools in which public and private education cooperate. Private education is guaranteed in the Constitution: the freedom of determination of private education is guaranteed as well as the equal financial treatment (amendment of 1917).

The requirements that public and private education must meet must be laid down in laws. The government must report to the Dutch Parliament annually about the condition of education.


Legislation Educational Staff


Education Professions Act

The Education Professions Act (2006) (Wet op de beroepen in het onderwijs) regulates standards of competence for both teachers and other people working in education-related jobs in primary education and in secondary and adult and vocational education.



Legislation early childhood education and care


Quality and Education Act

The Opportunities for Development through Quality and Education Act (OKE) (2010) (Wet ontwikkelingskansen door kwaliteit en educatie) aims to align playgroups and day nurseries more in order to give all children similar opportunities for development regardless of the preschool facility they attend.


The Childcare and Quality Standards for Playgroups Act

The Childcare and Quality Standards for Playgroups Act (2010) (Wet kinderopvang en kwaliteitseisen peuterspeelzalen) gives childcare its own statutory framework. The Act safeguards the quality and supervision of childcare, and regulates the way it is funded. .

Providers of childcare facilities and childminder agencies are required to meet certain quality standards, i.e. to provide care in a healthy and safe environment beneficial to children’s development and well-being. Representatives of childcare and parents’ organisations have fleshed out these general standards in a detailed agreement on the quality of childcare.



Legislation primary and secondary education


Good Education and Good Governance Act

The Good Education and Good Governance Act (2010) (Wet Goed onderwijs en goed bestuur) enables the government to cut off funding to individual primary or secondary schools in the interests of their pupils if the level of education they provide is consistently poor. The Act formulates minimum quality requirements for all schools. In the case of mismanagement by the board, schools may receive a warning.


Participation Act

The Participation Act (WMS; 2006) (Wet medezeggenschap op scholen), which applies to (special) primary education and (special) secondary education, aims at reinforcing the position of staff, parents and pupils in participation, in particular in representative advisory bodies. Besides having the right to be informed, the representative advisory bodies also have advisory powers and the right to give consent.


Education Inspection Act

The Education Inspection Act (WOT; 2002) (Wet op het onderwijstoezicht) regulates the tasks, responsibilities and powers of the Inspectorate, enables the Inspectorate to operate professionally and independently, and creates scope for stimulating evaluation. The Inspectorate monitors whether institutions are shouldering their own responsibilities for quality assurance. Since 2002, the Inspectorate has had the statutory duty to promote the quality of education.

The Education Inspection Act contains four conditions to be met by inspections:

• They must take account of freedom of education, and institutions’ own responsibilities.

• The Inspectorate encourages educational institutions to make full use of their scope to evolve policy on quality

• They may not place a greater burden on the school than is strictly necessary for careful supervision (proportional inspections)

• They must also supply information about quality trends in the sector.


Legislation primary education


Primary Education Act and Expertise Centres Act

As from 1 August 1998 primary education is provided by two acts, the Primary Education Act (Wet op Primair Onderwijs) and the Expertise Centres Act (Wet op de Expertisecentra)

The WPO and the WEC describe the objectives of primary education (attainment targets) and prescribes how teaching should be structured and organised (content, quality, school plan, funding, school prospectus, complaints procedure). It also lays down rules governing the special needs support structure (special needs plan, consortia) and the position of staff, parents and pupils.


Legislation secondary education


Secondary Education Act

The Secondary Education Act (WVO, 1968;  revised in 1998) (Wet op het voortgezet onderwijs). Secondary education is made up of:

• pre-university education (VWO);

• senior general secondary education and pre-vocational secondary education (HAVO and VMBO);

• pre-vocational education (VBO), including learning support (LWOO);

• practical training;

• other forms of secondary education.

As of the 1999/2000 school year,  secondary schools for children with learning and behavioral difficulties  were brought within the scope of the Secondary Education Act. The education they provide is now known as learning support and practical training. These schools are now officially known as special schools for secondary education.


Law modernisation of instruction time

Since 2015-2016 there is no prescribed or advisory timetable, and no prescribed minimum for the number of teaching hours in each subject. The old norm is replaced by a norm per study field, set in the law ‘Wet modernisering onderwijstijd’ (Law modernisation of instruction time). Schools decide for themselves how these hours should be spread over the school year, as long as they maintain  the  norm for the hours throughout the whole studies:

  • 3700 hours in VMBO
  • 4700 hours in HAVO
  • 5700 hours in VWO


Legislation secondary and vocational education


Fees and Educational Expenses Act

Under the Fees and Educational Expenses Act (WTOS, 2001) (Wet tegemoetkoming onderwijsbijdrage en schoolkosten), parents can apply for help with educational expenses and fees. The allowance is dependent on income but is not subject to income tax and does not have to be repaid.



Legislation Adult and Vocational Education


The Adult and Vocational Education Act

The Adult and Vocational Education Act  (Wet educatie en beroepsonderwijs) (WEB; was introduced in stages between 1996 and 2000 (1997: introduction of the qualification structure for vocational education; 1998:  the last group of regional training centres (ROCs) opened their doors; 2000: introduction of the new funding system). An amendment to the Adult and Vocational Education Act, making provision for personal budgets in vocational education, entered into force on 1 August 2008.


Benchmarks (Language and Numeracy) Act

This legislation (2010) (Wet referentieniveaus Nederlandse taal en rekenen) lays down benchmarks for the knowledge and skills pupils are expected to have acquired in language and numeracy at different stages in their school career. It provides a general framework for the organisation of the curriculum by schools and teachers at all levels of primary, secondary, secondary vocational and special education. The benchmarks were introduced to improve pupils’ language and numeracy skills, and ensure continuity of learning.



Legislation Adult, Vocational and Higher Education


Student Finance Act

The Student Finance Act (WSF; 2000) (Wet op de studiefinanciering 2000) provides grants for students. Since 1 September 2015 the studygrant for students in higher education has changed. A borrow- system has replaced the studygrant. New bachelor and masterstudents can use this loan from the government under favorable conditions. For students who started before 1 September 2015 the old regulation was valid.



Legislation Higher Education


Higher Education and Research Act

The Higher Education and Research Act (WHW; 1993) (Wet op het hoger onderwijs en wetenschappelijk onderzoek) provides a single statutory framework for university education (wetenschappelijk onderwijs), higher professional education (hoger beroepsonderwijs) and the Open University (open universiteit).

The Higher Education and Research Act contains general provisions applicable to the entire higher education sector. It also includes:

• provisions that apply specifically to higher professional education, the universities or the Open University. These relate to the structure of courses and institutions;

• parameters relating to the organisation of teaching, such as entry requirements with regard to previous education, and study loads;

• regulations concerning examinations, students, participation in decision-making, staff, planning and funding;

• provisions governing cooperation between institutions.


Education Minor Act

This Act (2010) (Wet educatieve minor) enables students to take a minor in education as part of their university bachelor’s degree programme. After attaining their bachelor’s degree, they will be qualified to teach in the VMBO theoretical programme and the first three years of HAVO and VWO. They do not first need to get a master’s degree.


Higher Education Accreditation Act

The Higher Education Accreditation Act (2002) (Wet accreditatie in het hoger onderwijs) is part of the Higher Education and Research Act (WHW) and provides the supervision of institutions for higher education.

The Compulsory Education Act

The Compulsory Education Act provides that all school-age children must go to school. In the Netherlands there is compulsory education for pupils from 5- 16 years old. The obligation to acquire a basic qualification is for pupils from 16- 18 years old.