This chapter provides a thematic and chronological overview of national reforms and policy developments since 2020. The introduction of the chapter describes the overall education strategy and the key objectives across the whole education system. It also looks at how the education reform process is organised and who are the main actors in the decision-making process. The section on ongoing reforms and policy developments groups reforms in the following broad thematic areas that largely correspond to education levels:
- Early childhood education and care
- School education
- VET and Adult learning
- Higher education
- Transversal skills and Employability.
Inside each thematic area, reforms are organised chronologically. The most recent reforms are described first.
Overall national education strategy and key objectives
One of the key features of the Dutch education system, guaranteed under Article 23 of the Constitution, is freedom of education. This refers to the freedom to found schools (freedom of establishment), to organise the teaching in schools (freedom of organisation of teaching) and to determine the principles on which they are based (freedom of conviction).
The freedom of education I limited by the qualitative standards set by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in educational legislation. These qualitative standards – core objectives – refer to what needs to be taught and studied in both public and private primary, secondary and special education: a global method of educational programming. Freedom of education gives schools the right the decide how to translate global frameworks into specific education. In addition, the number of instructional hours is prescribed at a national level. However, schools are free to decide where they want to place emphasis in their educational programming.
Everyone in the Netherlands deserves a good life and should be able to participate. This starts with offering all children and students the same opportunities to develop themselves. The government does this by:
- prevent learning delays;
- introduce the basic grant for all students;
- train good teachers and school leaders;
- reduce salary gaps between primary and secondary school teachers;
- improving the quality of MBO courses;
- offer cheaper childcare;
- give more attention to culture and music at school.
A number of objectives from the coalition agreement (In Dutch) with regard to education are:
Strengthening the basics
- There will be a 'master plan' so that every child learns to read, write and calculate. We want visible improvements in educational quality in general and basic skills in particular. We will state more clearly what we expect from schools, for example in the curriculum review. The focus will be on the quality of education and quicker interventions for schools that are underperforming
- Schools will me more accountable for the use and effectiveness of resources without increasing the administrative burden. The authority of school leaders and teachers as well as the involvement and participation of parents and students will be strengthened.
- In total, a structural investment pf € 1 billion per year to strengthen the quality of education.
- We ensure a good start for every child at childcare. The goal is to make it easier for parents to work. Therefore there will be a gradually increase of the childcare allowance to 95% for working parents with children up to the age of 12. The allowance will soon be paid directly to childcare institutions so that parents are no longer confronted with large claims. We are reviewing the ambition to increase the reimbursement percentage to 100%.
- Prevention of learning arrears by encouraging the participation of children with a language deficiency in early childhood education (VVE) and strengthening the quality and the relationship between childcare and education. As part of a broad approach to combating poverty in vulnerable neighborhoods by municipalities, we are investing in a ‘rich school day’. This means that schools themselves determine what they deem necessary to reduce inequality. Examples include assistance with homework, sports and culture in collaboration with local associations and libraries.
- Improvement of the transition from primary to secondary education. We encourage broad and extended first grade (brugklas) classes where attention is paid to the talents of each student. We promote progression and differentiation to give students maximum opportunities in secondary education. There will be room for a tailor-made diploma.
- We will continue and further expand the social service period (maatschappelijke diensttijd). This way young people come into contact with new worlds, dedicate themselves to society, develop new skills and possibly discover where their passions lie. This is possible with (social) projects in the field of care, welfare, security, defence, sport, nature and climate.
- We will continue with the improvement approach to suitable education (passend onderwijs) and strive for inclusive education in which children with and without a disability or illness go to school together.
- A structural investment of € 1 billion per year to increase equality of including social service time.
Investing in good teachers and school leaders
- To improve the quality of education in the Netherlands, we will invest in good and sufficient teachers and school leaders. Per year € 800 million will be allocated for this.
- We are committed to strengthening the quality of teacher training programs with a focus on effective teaching methodology, digital skills and suitable education.
- Training and further education for teachers will be a priority. We will promote professional development. To support novice teachers the training for lateral entrants will be improved and more flexible.
- Closing the wage gap and strive for a single collective labor agreement for teachers and administrators in primary education. We improve the employment conditions for school leaders and teachers at schools with many educational disadvantages.
- Investment in reducing the workload; For example, schools can use this to reduce class sizes or use more teachers or supervisors in the classroom. We facilitate the use of digital tools to reduce the teacher's workload and improve the quality of education.
Stronger vocational education
- Stimulation of labor market-relevant vocational training in technical senior general secondary education (techniekhavo) and small-scale vocational education. We will maintain as wide a range of vocational training as possible distributed across different regions.
- Creating a pact between the government, educational institutions and the business community to ensure that every MBO student receives an internship and appropriate compensation. We will ban internship discrimination.
Stronger higher and scientific education
- We want everyone to be able to study, regardless of their parents' income. We are therefore introducing a basic grant for all students and an income-related supplementary grant from academic year 2023/2024. We pay attention to feasibility and enforceability. The public transport card, current loan conditions and investments from student loans remain in effect.
- Students for whom a basic grant has not been available can choose between a discount on their student debt or a study voucher. An extra €1 billion will be allocated for this, on top of the current budget for study vouchers.
- Universities should work together for small studies and for Dutch language and culture. We want to ensure that every Bachelor's student has a subsequent Master's at the same institution.
- The binding study advice (BSA) will be adjusted. Students who do not meet the BSA standard in the first year are given the opportunity to achieve the credit standard in the second year. In the event of evidently insufficient study progress, the institution retains the option of issuing binding study advice at the end of the first year and guiding the student towards a more suitable study programme. With this modified BSA, we also contribute to improving student well-being.
- We encourage the free and safe exchange of ideas and safeguard the academic freedom of scientists. We establish frameworks for scientific cooperation with unfree countries. Open science and open education will become the norms, provided that national security is not compromised.
Social safety and equal treatment
- We guarantee social safety and equal treatment in every school for student and teacher, so that every child and every teacher enjoys a safe education. The Inspectorate of Education will pay extra attention to social safety. The Inspectorate will also be given the task of responding to individual complaints. The social safety law will be expanded to include teachers.
- Strict action will be taking against poorly functioning school boards, in line with the Extension of Administrative Instruments (Education) Act.
- We guarantee equal application opportunities for everyone regardless of socio-economic and cultural background.
- We will intervene more quickly with (informal) educational institutions and their representatives that operate in an anti-integration, anti-democratic or anti-rule-of-law manner.
Overview of the education reform process and drivers
The Dutch education system is governed by different acts. Each type of education has its own legislation:
- Primary education: Primary Education Act (WPO)
- (Secondary) special education: Expertise Centres Act (WEC)
- Secondary education: Secondary Education Act (WVO)
- Adult and vocational education: Adult and Vocational Education Act (WEB)
- Higher education: Higher Education and Research Act (WHO).
In addition to the laws mentioned above, other education system laws in the Netherlands are the Compulsory Education Act and the Childcare Act. On top of that, a number of legal and regulatory frameworks are in place to ensure the inclusive nature of the education system.The Primary Education Act and the Secondary Education Act were amended to include an additional specification, stating that primary and secondary education should ‘stimulate active citizenship and social integration’. In 2007, the Equal Treatment by Virtue of Disability and Chronic Illness Act was adapted. Before, the Act only applied to employment, living and vocational education. Since 2009, the Act also applies to primary and secondary education.
The Constitution states that the government is responsible for education (art. 23 paragraph 1 Gw). Overall responsibility for the education system lies with the State, specifically the Minister of Education, Culture and Science and the State Secretary (junior minister) for Education, Culture and Science. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science lays down statutory requirements for early childhood education (VVE), primary and secondary education and secondary vocational education, and has overall control of adult general secondary education (VAVO). The government lays down the framework within which higher education institutions (higher professional education and universities) have to operate, but it is the responsibility of the competent authority of each institution to expand on the government framework in the teaching and examination regulations.
The provincial authorities’ role in education is limited to supervisory and legal tasks. The administration and management of primary and secondary schools and schools for secondary vocational education is locally organised.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) is largely responsible for financing education, determines general education policy and broadly determines the admission requirements, structure and objective of education. In addition, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK) are substantively involved in higher education. The large number of different policy areas of the education ministry are divided between two ministers and the state secretary. The Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Robbert Dijkgraaf (D66) is responsible for vocational education, higher education, science policy, emancipation, education inspectorate, the Research and Science Fund .The Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Dennis Wiersma (VVD), is responsible for early childhood education, primary, secondary and special and appropriate education, adult education, informal education, social service, the National Education Program and educational housing.