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Netherlands:National Reforms in School Education

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Netherlands:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Netherlands:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Netherlands:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:National Reforms in School Education

Netherlands:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Netherlands:National Reforms in Higher Education

Netherlands:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Netherlands:European Perspective







VMBO to become better and more practical

News item, February 2017

In future, pupils at schools for pre-vocational education (VMBO) will be able to move on to secondary vocational education (MBO) in various ways. Education minister Jet Bussemaker and state secretary Sander Dekker are going to draft new legislation enabling uninterrupted VMBO-MBO learning pathways and merging the theoretical and combined VMBO programmes. VMBO pupils will also be given more encouragement to take successive courses. This was announced in the letter they sent to the House of Representatives in February.

  • With these measures, Ms Bussemaker and Mr Dekker want to make the transition from VMBO to MBO easier. In future, VMBO pupils will be able to attend some of their lessons at an MBO school.
  • And moving on to MBO without first taking the VMBO leaving examinations should also be possible. This will mean that a pupil can gain a basic qualification within five years. Schools for VMBO and MBO will have to work closely together to achieve this, with the MBO school bearing final responsibility.

More opportunities for pupils
These adjustments are needed because the current pathways are too rigid for many VMBO pupils, and do not prepare them adequately for further education. Ms Bussemaker and Mr Dekker want pupils to be able to transfer more easily from one learning pathway to another and thus continue their education.

Uninterrupted VMBO-MBO learning pathways
According to the minister and state secretary, the proposal will ensure that fewer pupils drop out when they transfer from VMBO to MBO. Introduction of the new VMBO programmes, known as profiles, and better career orientation and guidance has already helped to bridge the gap with MBO, but Mr Dekker and Ms Bussemaker want to go further. The new uninterrupted learning pathways will improve the alignment of VMBO and MBO. There are also plans to allow VMBO pupils to attend lessons at schools for MBO and for VMBO and MBO schools to work more closely together, as this will make the step to MBO far easier for pupils.

  • The new legislation will cater for young people who already know what they want to do, since it will provide scope for an uninterrupted pathway from VMBO to MBO, enabling them to gain a basic qualification within five years.
  • Bridging programmes also help young people move on smoothly to MBO, teaching them how to approach their studies properly and use their networks to the best advantage. Bridging programmes will also be introduced for VMBO pupils wishing to transfer to senior general secondary education (HAVO).
  • The new legislation will also give schools more scope to match their curriculum to regional employment needs and the wishes of their pupils.

Importance of practical training
Mr Dekker and Ms Bussemaker also want practical training to play a more prominent role in VMBO. Evidence shows that there is a clear need for more practical lessons, not only in VMBO but also in general secondary education. They therefore propose merging the combined programme, in which VMBO pupils also study a practical subject, with the theoretical programme. In practice, the difference between the two programmes is already disappearing, since in their fourth year, pupils doing the combined programme often transfer to the theoretical programme. Pupils often find practical work more enjoyable, but switch to the theoretical programme because it has a higher social status. This assumption is totally unfounded, because the two programmes are taught at the same level.

Boosting the image of vocational education
Altogether, the minister and state secretary are taking six measures to strengthen vocational education and improve its image. Their proposal comes in response to recommendations from the Education Council and the Secondary Vocational Education Council, and was discussed at length with teachers, school leaders, school boards, parents, teachers and the business community.

Incentive for better music education at primary teacher training colleges (PABO)

News item, February 2017

To bring more music into the classroom, it is important that future teachers have enough confidence to sing to and with their pupils. This starts with proper music education for each student attending primary teacher training college (PABO). Education and culture minister Jet Bussemaker has therefore earmarked €5 million over the next few years for a grant scheme for colleges wishing to promote the professional development of newly qualified teachers in the field of music education.

Music education at every PABO
The minister is working with singer Ilse DeLange and other parties involved in the Méér Muziek in de Klas (more music in the classroom) campaign for more and better music education at primary schools. The aim is for music lessons to be a standard part of the curriculum at every primary school in the Netherlands by 2020. So trainee primary teachers need to gain enough confidence to make music and learn the technical skills to teach the subject. Every trainee teacher will have to be able to make music for and with the children in their class. The new grant scheme will give PABOs an incentive to provide high-quality music education for their students. An important condition is that they work together with colleges of music. Applications for projects under the grant scheme must show how the PABO intends to make high-quality music education a permanent fixture in teacher training.

Towards better music education
Music education is one of Ms Bussemaker’s main ambitions. She has earmarked nearly €30 million to improve music education in the Netherlands over the next few years, with grant schemes for primary schools and PABOs. The various schemes will be administered by the Cultural Participation Fund. Ms Bussemaker’s initiatives dovetail with the national Méér Muziek in de Klas campaign, of which singer Ilse DeLange is an ambassador. Projects will start in the autumn of 2017 and run for three school years.

Automatic transfer to HAVO for VMBO pupils

News item, January 2017

In future, school leavers with a pre-vocational education (VMBO) certificate will be able to transfer more smoothly to senior general secondary education (HAVO). Many schools currently set additional requirements, but state secretary for education Sander Dekker now plans to amend the relevant legislation so that this will no longer be possible. Pupils who have done the theoretical or combined theoretical and vocational programme and have passed their examinations in seven subjects may then transfer automatically to HAVO. Mr Dekker also plans to abolish secondary schools’ requirement that VMBO leavers transferring to HAVO may not repeat a year.

At the beginning of January, the state secretary sent a letter to the House of Representatives informing them of his plans. In his opinion, the requirements for transferring to HAVO are unclear, and differ from school to school. He also believes that there are too many obstacles preventing pupils from fulfilling their potential.

Schools now set differing requirements for VMBO leavers, because the combined and theoretical programmes do not tie in with the HAVO curriculum. For example, pupils in the VMBO care and welfare sector are not taught chemistry. This makes transfer to the HAVO science and health subject combination very difficult. As a result, a quarter of them leave school without a HAVO certificate.

Seven subjects
Sander Dekker believes that setting extra requirements for pupils wanting to transfer to HAVO is not the solution – quite the opposite. For this reason, he plans to introduce new legislation stipulating that pupils who have passed their examinations in seven subjects may automatically transfer to HAVO. Pupils transferring from VMBO to HAVO in the 2019/2020 school year should be able to make use of the new regulations. In the interim, the state secretary, in consultation with the Secondary Education Council, will ask schools to offer a seventh subject to pupils who want to transfer to HAVO. Bridging programmes will also be introduced to help VMBO pupils take the step to HAVO.

While drafting the new legislation, Mr Dekker plans to work with schools to bring VMBO more closely in line with HAVO and to improve career orientation and guidance. He also plans to examine how VMBO schools can set up an appropriate framework for an optional seventh subject, and how HAVO schools can improve VMBO pupils’ success rate.


Agreements on supply teachers in primary schools

News item, December 2016

Schools will have more opportunities to take on supply teachers in the event of a flu epidemic. Using the scope provided in the Work and Security Act, employers and employees in the education sector requested a ministerial order on this matter. Their request has been granted by social affairs and employment minister Lodewijk Asscher.

The Work and Security Act has applied to privately run schools since 1 July 2016. Its aim is to create more security and transparency for employees, such as the right to get a permanent contract sooner. And since every job is different, the Act also enables customisation. This was taken on board by employers and trade unions in negotiating the new collective labour agreement for primary and special education. Various new types of contract were added to facilitate the employment of supply teachers. The collective agreement also departs from existing regulations on successive temporary contracts. Whereas the maximum number of temporary contracts used to be three in two years, teachers may now enter into six contracts over three years before obtaining a permanent post.

Nonetheless, schools still encounter problems in the winter months, when they need more supply teachers to cope with the consequences of a flu epidemic, for example. For this reason, employers and employees in the sector used the scope contained in the Work and Security Act to request a ministerial order on the matter. Now, in the months of January, February and March schools may take on supply teachers for fourteen successive days without having to offer them a permanent contract as a result. Other sectors have also made use of the scope for customisation provided in the Work and Security Act.

Teachers trained for new VMBO programmes

News item, December 2016

In the past few months, more than half the teachers who teach practical subjects at schools for pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) have received further training for the new vocational programmes, known as profiles, that were introduced at the start of this school year. More than 2,500 teachers took part, attending a total of nearly 5,300 courses. VMBO pupils can now choose from 10 options instead of over 30. For most schools, the transition has been smooth.

Extra money

  • State secretary for education Sander Dekker has earmarked an extra €1.7 million to encourage even more teachers to attend in-service training courses.
  • This comes on top of the €1.5 million already invested in training for VMBO teachers in the past year.
  • Mr Dekker expects participation in further training to total 10,000 over the next few years. Some parts of the curriculum have changed radically. Teachers are not always equipped to teach the new subject matter, so further training brings their knowledge and skills up to date.

From bricklaying to 3D printing
Teachers can choose between more than 150 courses on the website Subjects vary from bricklaying and woodwork to patisserie and window-dressing, and from smart technology in the healthcare sector to 3D printing. Many of the courses are approved by the Register of Teachers, so that they count officially as professional development.

Final exams made even better: more than 3300 times cum laude

News item, November 2016

Final exams are made well in secondary school. The success rate was with 92,7 percent at the highest point since 2008. In total, more than 3300 students received an 8.0 or higher on their diploma, achieving the addendum cum laude.

State secretary Sander Dekker (education) mentioned this in a letter to the Lower House of Parliament. The top talents are also doing well: in VMBO more than 800 children gained the so-called designation cum laude. In HAVO, more than 300 pupils managed it, in VWO over 2200 pupils. Pupils can use the addendum on their diploma to differentiate themselves for further education or for a job application.

Granting the designation cum laude is one of the measures from the plan of the approach Toptalents 2014-2018, which has proven to be successful: the ability of schools to connect education to the needs pupils is increasing. In concrete terms, this means that teachers have more attention for talent in the classroom and boredom under top talents  has been more than halved.

Dekker writes in the letter that the exams are constantly better checked by the second proof-reader. According to the first proof-reader, the exams are checked by the second proof-reader in 95% of the cases. According to a research of Cito it concerns an increase from 44 to 72 percent.

He sticks to the current practise, in which the personal teacher checks and then a second teacher.  Teachers support this order and thanks to the improvements there is no reason to redesign the process differently. However, Dekker does want exams to checked even better in the future. Therefore, umbrella organisation VO-Council (Council for secondary education) will enter into dialogue with schools to give teachers the time and space to check properly. In addition, a set of guidelines emerges and a contact point stays for teachers who are in a fix with checking.

More cultural education in school

More and more pupils experience culture. More than half of the Dutch primary schools offers qualitative good cultural education. To lend force to this positive movement, the cultural education at the primary school and the vmbo will be enlarged. With the investments, the expertise of teachers in this field will be enlarged. This is mentioned in a letter that Minister Bussemaker and State Secretary Dekker have send to the Lower House of Parliament. 

Investing in cultural education
Cultural education is made operational through teachers. Teachers should therefore also be supported to provide good cultural education.

  • The coming years, Minister Bussemaker enables internal cultural  coordinators to further professionalise themselves with the training to become a cultural coordinator, therefore €4 million is made available.
  • Minister Bussemaker makes €5 million available in the coming years for a grant scheme for PABO’s (teacher education courses) and conservatories to foster the professional development of teachers in the area of cultural education.
  • In addition, the Minister has announced earlier that in the coming years she will free up €1,2 million extra per year for the impulse music education.
  • She will also intensify the cultural education in VMBO with €1,2 million per year.


Cultural education is a priority in the policy of Minister Bussemaker. In 2013, she has set up the program ‘Cultural education with quality’. Annually she invests €10,2 million in cultural education, other governments match this amount. Research has shown that since the start of ‘Cultural education with quality’ on participating school more cultural education is given and it’s quality has improved. The offer of the cultural sector is in line with the wishes of the schools themselves.

Bussemaker is committed to improve the music education in the Netherlands. By a grant scheme of €25 million schools can apply for a grant to enlarge the quality of their music education. The scheme is popular, the application of 557 schools were awarded this school year. Schools can sign up till April 1 2017 for the school year 2017-2018.
In secondary education, the Minister encourages cultural education in different ways. In MBO (vocational education), students can request a cultural discount card. 88% of the MBO-students has requested this so-called MBO-card. Students in HAVO and VWO can also request this card. 72% of the pupils in secondary education have a CJP-card.

Minister sends letter to 150.000 examination candidates

News item November 2017

More than 150.000 examination candidates HAVO, VWO en MBO level 4 (bol) have received a letter from Minister Bussemaker. Still too many students switch after the first year from study, or even drop out. A lot of prospective students also don’t know that the supplementary grant has increased and that the grant is in principle a gift. With the letter, the Minister wants to prepare prospective students well for their study.

  • In this letter prospective student will receive information about isses which they have to arrange before they want to attend a university (of applied sciences).
  • The Minister also calls on examination candidates  to make a study plan through on
  • For studies with numerus fixes the registration deadline is January 15.

With the letter to the prospective students Minister Bussemaker also gives the starting signal for the campaign “Study with a plan”. Through Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and YouTube the Minister will call on prospective students to orient themselves carefully, sign up on time and to prepare themselves financially.

Comprehensive approach for equity in education

News item October 2016

Smoother transitions between different types of schools, learning from each other’s experiences, awareness of all stakeholders, room for experimenting and an investment of €87 million for the next three years. In that way, Dutch Minister Bussemaker and State Secretary Dekker, along with stakeholders inside and outside the education sector, are going to stimulate children with equal talents also acquire equal chances in the education sector. From 2020, €26 million will be made available structurally. 
Bussemaker and Dekker have announced the measures during the launch of Equal Chances Alliance. This is a partnership in which teachers, parents, schools, employers and civil society organisations will join together in the coming years to ensure that every child gets equal chances to develop talents and to pursue dreams. 

Research on equal opportunities
Various studies (Education Inspectorate, WRR/SCP, OESO) indicate that in recent times children with equal talents in the education sector don’t get equal chances. Their chance is partly determined by the educational level of the parents or the support that the parents offer. Instead of shrinking the differences sometimes even increase when the children go to school.

Transition between different types of schools
One major bottleneck are the transitions between different types of schools. Children of low-educated parents are at increased risk for a choice that does not do any justice to their qualities, because their parents have little or no experience in the (Dutch) education system and are insufficiently aware of the possibilities.

Therefore, Bussemaker and Dekker invest heavily in the transitions between different types of schools.

  • From 2017 onwards, amounting up to €14,5 million structurally for transition classes. In the transition between primary and secondary education, it involves children who get insufficient guidance, or have a language- or learning delay.
  • For students in pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) it concerns 5000 pupils per year who follow a so-called transition program in which they are being prepared on the first year of the HAVO (senior general secondary education) or MBO (vocation secondary education).
  • There will be invested in the transition from MBO to HBO (higher education for applied sciences): €7,5 million structurally.
  • In addition, there is a specific budget (€2,5 million) for students in vocational education (MBO students) who want follow the PABO (teacher training course). Talented aspirant-teachers with a MBO diploma tend often to be discouraged in order to choose for a course with extra entry requirements such as the PABO. This is particularly relevant for MBO students with a migrant background.
  • Furthermore, there is extra money (€4 million) available to stimulate MBO students to grow (learning longer at a higher level).

Guidance for children with low-educated parents
Good guidance for children with low-educated parents who don’t receive the support from  home that other children do get, is crucial.

  • Therefore, twenty schools in big cities have the opportunity to experiment with teachers who have extra free time. In that time, they can guide disadvantaged pupils or coach colleagues. Therefore, €3 million will be made available in 2017.
  • In order to better equip parents for the guidance of their school-aged child, €2 million has been allocated per year extra for the program Tel mee met Taal (2017-2018). In this way 10.000 parents with a low language skills will receive language training, coaching and support with the parenting of their children.
  • For support of social initiatives in which HBO and WO students are matched with students in secondary education and vocational education, €1 million will be allocated structurally from 2017 onwards. These role models or coaches can dismantle the barriers for young people who are not used to study further out of their home base.

Total investment
In total, Bussemaker and Dekker allocate €25 million in 2017 for stimulating equal chances in the education sector, in 2018 its €32 million, in 2019 €30 million and from 2020 onwards it’s structurally €26 million per year.

The government leaders are aware that these investment and concrete measures solely are not sufficient. For a sustainable approach, more is needed. Therefore, parents, teachers, school directors, researchers. Employers and civil society organisations are encouraged to unite themselves in the Gelijke Kansen Alliantie (Equal Chances Alliance). Through this platform, they can share good experiences with each other and learn from other. Participants to the alliance will be supported in the coming with research and space to experiment.

Less children are bullied, but attention is still necessary

News item, September 2016

In 2016, less children were bullied in primary and secondary education then in 2014.  Nevertheless, still too many children are affected by it every day. Therefore, the fight against bullying has to be continued unabated. This is stated by the state secretary Sander Dekker (education) at the beginning of the Week against Bullying.

According to the latest new figures, 10 percent of the pupils is bullied once per month or more often at primary school. Two years ago this was still 14%. In secondary education, there is a decrease of 11 to 8 percent.

At the same time, there is still a lot remains to be done to make sure that all children go to school with a good feeling. 

Bullying was topping the political and social agenda four year ago after several tragic suicides. Then, state secretary Dekker and former the Ombudsman for Children Marc Dullaert made an action plan. Schools intensified their anti-bullying approach and there came more attention for the effectiveness of anti-bullying methods. Final part was the law that improved the responsibility of the school for the social safety of pupils.

Dekker finds the newest figures hopeful. Whether the decrease can be converted in a trend for the coming years must become clear from the measurement which will be conducted over two years.

Also, the PO-Council (primary education) and the VO-council (secondary education) are satisfied that the efforts are starting to produce results. Both councils will inform their members actively on the possibilities to continue to discuss bullying at school.

Government committed to equal chances and customisation

News item, September 2016

The themes social equity and education are a constant element through the education budget for 2017. Children should have the same chances, according to Minister Bussemaker and state secretary Dekker. Whenever threatened by unequal chances, they will interfere. At the same time, pupils who are able to achieve more are being challenged. In short: every talent is stimulated.

This government  keeps on investing in education, despite budgetary scarcity. In the budget of 2017, this is evident in the rise of the amount that the government contributed to the schooling o every pupil or student.

  • In 2012, the contribution per mbo-student (student in vocational education) was still  € 7200 per year, in 2017 it is  €8100.
  • In primary education, the amount increased from  €6200 in 2012 to  €6700 in 2017.
  • In secondary education the amount increased  from  €7900 to  €8100.
  • The amounts in higher education (€6400 in 2012, €6700 in 2017) rise from next year further because then the first investments will be really clear through the new student finance system. 

Equal chances
The society does not stop at the fence of the schoolyard. Also unacceptable developments, such inequality of chances, all pass through the classroom. The education in the Netherlands has traditionally a emancipating task, which makes sure that the differences are reduced. Minister Bussemaker and State Secretary Dekker don’t accept that children with the same talents don’t get the same chances. They commit fully to equal chances.
Of the  €200 million which is available for political priorities, €55 million will be made available stimulating of equal chances:

  • €15 million will be spent on asylum children so that schools will have an extra (second) year financed for language education,
  • €10 million is reserved for a structural solution for MBO-students of whom the parents cannot pay the school fees and 
  • €5 million is for the policy for the disadvantaged. In this way, small municipalities will also receive sufficient money to arrange preschools for children who are at risk of a language deficiency.
  • €25 million for equal chances will be filled in later.
  • The remaining €145 million will be spent on better education and good working conditions for teachers on the coming government term (€133 million), culture (€10 million) and the education inspectorate (€2 million).

The budget for 2017, makes early measures also clear which Minister Bussemaker adopted to stimulate equal chances, such as the introduction on January 1 of the OV-card for MBO-bol-students under the age of 18 years old and the intended implementation of the right of admission in vocational education on Augustus 1 2017. 


The teacher is essential for the quality of education. He or she determines what children learn. This calls for a powerful professional group that sets out clear requirements to the profession.
Therefore, in school year 2017-2018, the Register of Teachers will start in which teachers can keep up with their knowledge and skills. All teachers will be placed in the Register of Teachers or in the gateway.

The teachers noticed this year that are being appreciated by an increase of their salary. The government allowed the wages to rise again in 2014, after 5 years with a zero line, with the developments in the market, to let out a substantial wage increase on top of that. Last year, teachers and school leaders gained over 5%, in 2017 teachers and other education personnel in primary and secondary education and vocational education will gain €500 for a full-time employment on top of that.

Education and the deduction of monuments

  1. Next to extra investment in education, the government wants to use incentives schemes more effectively. Therefore, the fiscal deductions for educational expenses and monuments are replaced for focused training voucher and subsidies.
  2. The deduction of monuments reaches only a limited goal. Often, interventions are financed by it which are done also with the deduction and money goes to the maintenance or reparation of installations (such as a boiler) that cannot contribute to the monumental value of a building.
  3. According to the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), the educational deduction barely leads to increased training. In addition, especially high educated people make use of it instead of people who need the extra training the most: lower and middle-educated people who are at greatest risk of losing their job on the long or short term.
  4. Furthermore, in 2017, the Lifelong Learning-credit will be available for everyone till 55 years old who wants to continue to develop themselves but does not have the right for a study grant. They can loan tuition fees at concessional terms if they want to follow a course in vocational education or higher education.

Customised learning

Offering all children the same chances is something different than offering them uniformity. No two children are the same. Good education recognises and acknowledges the differences and make sure that each child can get the best out him or herself. The government stimulates this by making good performances noticeable, for example by the opportunity to graduate cum laude in secondary education and to follow subjects at a higher level. State Secretary Dekkers will present at the beginning of 2017 the legislative proposal More Space for New Schools. This proposal makes it possible to create new schools that fit better to the wishes of parents and children and at the same time imposes greater quality requirements for starting schools. The content of the education on primary schools and secondary schools is going to be improved.

  • The coming year, Onderwijs2032 will be going in the deepening phase, in which the role of teachers will get extra emphasis and the feasibility and applicability of sharing of the advice will be identified.
  • In 2017 the experiment flexible studying in higher education will begin. Students who want to combine their programme with activities can pay tuition fee in proportion of the education that they are following. 
  • Students will notice next year that the Strategic Agenda will be given effect, by small and intensive education, better guidance and better study facilities.

Dutch Minister of Education helps schools with school fees

News item, September 2016

Parents with a low income, who have an underage child following school based vocational training (bol) don’t have to worry on whether they can pay the school fees.

Schools in vocational education can advance payments or take-over. They can purchase the teaching materials to have them loaned to students. Even when parents have incurred school fees for this school year, they can apply for support at the school. It is agreed with the MBO-council en the ‘’Stichting Leergeld’’ (foundation for course fee)  that school can also pay fees with retroactive effect.

Dutch minister Bussemaker (education) had made this known to the schools per letter.

Equal chances

This year, minister Bussemaker makes 5 million euro available to help parents with a low-income with school fees. ‘’Children should not be forced to choose another route because their parents can’t afford it. Everyone should have equal chances’’, according to the minister.

The money is empathically meant for parents with low incomes who really can’t afford school fees. For example for study books, special clothing, a laptop, or other supplies such as materials.

The schools will receive the money and have to ensure that it reaches its destination.

Less work and more appreciation for good schools

News item June 2016

Schools in primary education, secondary education and schools in vocational education will have less work from the inspection of the Inspectorate of education. The Inspectorate of Education is making increasingly use of the accountability that schools already have. In addition, schools can receive beside the judgment ‘’sufficient’’ also the assessment ‘’good’’.

In the past years the Inspectorate has tested this new method in pilots. The experiences were so good that Dutch minister Bussemaker and state secretary Dekker can carry them out broadly. Because the number of (very) low qualified schools and courses has decreased, there is room for differentiated inspection.

In primary education, special education, secondary education and vocational education the assessment ‘’good’’ is new for schools and courses. A school who is marked as ‘’good’’ complies with statutory requirements and does not only establish high ambitions but also meets them.

For a number of years, schools in primary education, schools in special education and schools in secondary education can also earn the mark of ‘excellence’’.  Schools apply therefor voluntarily and a jury examines the request. Soon boards and schools can also ask the Inspectorate whether they are eligible for the assessment ‘’good’’.

The judgments ‘’very weak, weak and sufficient’’ will remain.

Co-determination in education to be strengthened

News item, June 2016

The Senate has agreed with the bill Strengthening Management Capacity (only available in Dutch) of Dutch minister Bussemaker and state secretary Sander Dekker (education).  This strengthens the co-determinations in education. Students, pupils, parents and teachers will have more co-decision in all education sectors.

From now on directors will be appointed on the basis of their public profiles, where the co-determination has issued an advice. In addition, the co-determinations advises on the appointment and removal of directors. Internal supervisory boards in primary-secondary and vocational education should also communicate at least twice a year with the co-determination. In higher education this was already compulsory. In primary and secondary education, the co-determination would be given powers to annual a decision. The position of the study programme committee in higher education will also be strengthened, in order to be more directly involved in the quality of the study programme. The entire co-determinations will be better facilitated in order to adequately fulfill the role the co-determination.

In HBO (higher professional education) a student assessor will be introduced which is already widespread at universities. A student can attend the board meetings of his faculty and shall have an advisory function at the meetings. In addition, it will be possible to manage college tuition freely: as a member of a fulltime board- or co-determination, a student can be exempted  from tuition fee and you can reserve the right on loan facility and the OV-card (mobility card). Finally, the validity period of exam results can only be reduced in case of outdated knowledge, insight or skills.

Pact should reduce number of school-age children who stay at home instead of going to school

News item June 2016

Dutch state secretary Dekker (education) and Van Rijn (state secretary of health, public welfare and sport)  have adopted a pact with the Primary Education Council (the PO-raad) and the Secondary Education Council (the VO-raad)  and the Ministry of Security and Justice and the Association of the Dutch municipalities  to reduce the number of school-age children who stay at home instead of going to school.  In addition, state secretary Dekker  has appointed former Children’s Ombudsman Dullaert to stimulate the agreements from  the Pact.

Its main objective is to that by 2020 no child will stay longer than 3 months at home without a suitable solution.  The past year, around 10.000 children were staying home for short or longer duration. ‘This number should be reduced.  Every child has the right to education’, says Dekker.

In the process, Dullaert can stimulate and address the region’s that are less successful.

Pact for children who stay at home instead of going to school
In the pact, the following is established:

  • Municipalities and school collaborations are going decide together on a place of education if a child risks staying at home.
  • Municipalities and associations are called upon to draw a clear step plan to tackle school-age children who stay at home instead of going to school.
  • Additionally, municipalities and associations are going to reduce the number of exemptions of the Compulsory Education Act.
  • Parents, and where possible the child, are involved from the beginning in finding a suitable place of education.

Henceforth, the Ministry of Education and  the Ministry of Health, Public Welfare and Sport are going to organize a ‘Thuiszitterstop’ (house-sitter’s stop) to continuously keep track of the progress.

Municipalities should examine exemptions in compulsory education

News item June 2016

Dutch state secretary Dekker (Education) has convened all Dutch municipalities per letter to reassess the exemptions for children with a physical or mental disability. Whenever possible, pupils should still receive some form of schooling. Dekker hopes that thereby more children will receive adequate education. 

In recent years, more and more children are gaining exemption in accordance with article 5a of the Compulsory Education Act. This Act ensures that children with severe physical or mental disability don’t have to attend school. However, over the past 5 years, there has been an significant increase of 60% (from 3100 children in school year 2010-2011 till over 5000 in 2014/2015).

Right to Education
In anticipation of the results of the research, Dekker requires municipalities to carefully review whether they do not seize too quickly to exemption.

It is also important to remember that a part of the children have received a justifiable exemption, such as severe disabled children who are admitted in a care institution. For this group, municipalities don’t have to offer teaching activities.

Dekker aims to offer adequate education for each child. In addition to reviewing the exemptions, he is also committed to reduce the number of school-age children who stay at home instead of going to school. In school year 2014/2015, apart from children with an exemption, a small amount of 10.000 pupils were staying at home for a shorter or longer period. The goal is that by 2020, no school-age child will stay at home longer than 3 months without an adequate educational offer.

High demand for music education

News item May 2016

Music education is thriving again in primary education. Starting the coming school year, 728 schools will start with more and better music education in the classroom. In addition, the activities of the platform ‘More Music in the Classroom’ are highly successful. It is the ambition of Dutch minister Bussemaker that by 2020 music education is a matter-of-course at all primary schools in the Netherlands.

High interest in music education
728 schools have requested a funding at the Fund for Cultural Participation to give an impulse to music education at their school. In addition, 375  entries have come in for the music competition BZTshow XXL, this is the school competition organized by the platform ‘More Music in the Classroom’  in cooperation with the KRO-NRCV (Dutch broadcasting program for children). During the Music University Day, more than 300 teachers have followed a workshop music education at one of the conservatries and PABO’s  (Primary school teacher training colleges). In total more than 1000 of the 7000 primary schools have participated in one of the initiatives to enhance music education at their school which means that 15% of the primary schools are involved.

Impulse Music education
In the coming years, Dutch Minister Bussemaker has made 25 million available to enhance music education in the Netherlands. Through the arrangement Impulse Music Education, schools can request a funding to enhance the competencies of teachers. With the extra money, teachers can be trained in teaching music education and they can cooperate with different parties in the field of music, such as music schools, wind and percussion bands, brass bands, orchestra’s and music venues.

Schools can submit their application to the Fund for Cultural Participation. In the first round of this grant scheme, the Fund has received 728 request of schools.  As of next year, these schools want more and better music education at their school.  In order to be able to meet the great demand, minister Bussemaker has decided that this year all applications will be evaluated and  assessed. The earmarked budget of the third funding round in 2017 is already made available to the Fund for these applications.

As of next school year, a large group of schools can work together structurally to give children the opportunity to experience music education. The participating schools are very diverse. Also children who don’t make music at home, will be introduced to music through this impulse.

Top talents better served at schools

News item March 2016

The number of top talents that is bored at school is almost halved in two years. More and more schools offer education tailored to their talented pupils. For example, pupils can follow a specific subject in which they succeed at a higher level in education, besides the pilot ‘Accelerated VWO’ (pre-university education) will be extended. These are the first results of the Top Talent Action plan 2014-2018. These measures for top talents match with aiming to improve the quality of education (for all pupils) and the development of tailor-made education for all pupils.

At the baseline in 2014, a quarter of all students (24%) mentioned that they were almost always or often bored at school. Among top talents, even more than half of all the students (56%) mentioned that they were bored. (At that time there was no questionnaire for pupils in primary education). In 2016, 14% of all pupils mentioned that they are often bored at school, among top talents this percentage is decreased to 24%. Measurements are now also done in primary schools (2016). 16% of all pupils in primary education mentioned that they are bored at school.

This improvement is the result of the increased focus on top talents. More and more teachers, put, in addition to supporting pupils with a (potential) learning disabilities, also extra attention to the top talents in their class. In primary education it rose from 85% (2014) to 98% (2016), in secondary education it rose from 52% (2014) to 76% 92016).

In March 2016, the State Secretary of Education send a progress report (only available in Dutch) of the Top Talent Action plan to the Lower House. In this report measures are set out which led to an increase in providing tailor made education and the related decline in boredom at school. Since 2015, schools receive, via the sector agreement, extra funding for top talents in primary education and secondary education (VMBO, HAVO and VWO). This budget continues to grow in this coming year. It enables schools to offer more challenging education, by accelerating, broadening or enriching the curriculum. It is for example in secondary education possible to have the special mention of ‘cum laude’ on the diploma.

This upward trend should be stay the course. The coming two years the space for   customization on schools will be further widened, and schools are also encouraged to utilize the existing space (more).

State Secretary tackles unqualified teaching

News item February 2016

In secondary education all lessons should be given by the right qualified teachers, to guarantee the quality in education and to increase the quality. This is stated in the National Education Agreement. Schools boards and schools should encourage unqualified teachers to obtain the right/necessary qualifications. The State Secretary of Education mentions this (February 2016) in his plan to reduce the number of unqualified teachers in the class.
In secondary education more than three-quarters of the lessons are given by a competent teacher with the right qualifications. In addition, seven percent of the lessons are provided by teachers who are otherwise qualified, for example teachers being in training. Nearly sixteen percent of the lessons are still taught by teachers who are unqualified for that specific subject. That is too much. The State Secretary want that all lessons are taught by qualified teachers.

Current situation
Teachers are not sufficiently enough encouraged by their superiors to obtain the right qualifications within the stipulated time. Schools boards are often not sufficiently aware of the legal limits and conditions prevailing around the appointment of teachers. For example young teachers are entirely focused on teaching, so that completing their education/training goes down the drain. Sometimes teachers, without the right qualifications, are also asked to fill the gaps in the schedule of a school.

School boards, school leaders and teachers are the first to move when it comes to obtain the qualifications. From 2016 school boards will map data per school on the qualifications and competences (of the teachers). Parents and students can have a look at this data via the website: In this way it is visible for all parties to see how many lessons are given by unqualified teachers. With this information schools can also improve their own situation.

In 2016 and 2017 the Inspectorate of Education will investigate at 200 departments if these boards meet the legal requirements for appointments. Teachers, without any form of qualification that are teaching a subject for which teacher training is required, must start with this training to obtain the right qualification within the legal timeframe. When this not happens, sanctions will follow. In extreme cases, the funding may be suspended or withheld.

In addition, the supply of teacher training should be better aligned to the (in-service training) demands of the schools. The first steps in this area are already visible. It is for example possible to follow the educational minor (for a limited grade-two qualification) after a Bachelor. Furthermore, there are more and more opportunities to follow modules flexibly, which eventually can lead to a qualification.

Reduced number of early school leavers

News item February 2016

There is a continuing decline in the number of early school leavers. The number of young early school leavers in secondary education and vocational education decreased last school year with a number of 1.200 to a total of 24.451. Especially schools for vocational education were able to make much progress. The number of early school leavers dropped to 5%. This was published by the Minister of Education (February 2016). The Minister is very pleased with the reduction of early school leavers. It is striking that the biggest drop of early school leavers is among pupils older than 18 years.

In school year 2001/2002 there were about 71.000 early school leavers in the Netherlands. Fourteen years later this number has dropped to 24.451. This means that the objective of the government is achieved, which was 25.000 early school leavers in 2016.

New Objective
In the European context the Netherlands is among the leaders in reducing early school leaving. Compared to the other 28 EU Member States as a whole (11.2%) the Netherlands has a relatively low rate of early school leavers (8.7%). Despite this result, the Minister will not sit back (and no nothing extra). That is why the target is sharpened to 20.000 early school leavers in 2021.

Schools are encouraged financially to work on reducing the number of early school leavers. The Minister mentions: ‘Schools that are not working on reducing the number of early school leavers leave money on the shelve, which they could invest in better education’. 

Acclerated VWO

News item February 2016

Starting from school year 2016/2017 24 schools in secondary education will offer accelerated VWO (pre-university education). Students in these schools can complete VWO in 5 years instead of the six years that are normal. In this way talented students will be challenged more and they are given the opportunity to deepen themselves more.

Offering accelerated VWO is one of the measures in the Top Talents Action plan 2014-2018 .This action plan mentions 20 measures for schools in primary and secondary education to give more attention to top talents in their schools. 

Currently, at two schools for secondary education students follow accelerated VWO. The first experiences are positive. The schools are working on a appropriate curriculum for these talented students, with a focus on acceleration, broadening and deepening, with a matching didactic outline.

Schools must meet a number of conditions in order to provide accelerated VWO. For example, a school cannot be classified weak or very weak; the accelerated VWO should be arranged in addition to the regular VWO; students should be able to flow back easily in the regular program if they do not make it into the accelerated program. Furthermore, the Participation Council of the school must agree to the accelerated VWO and the school must participate in an evaluation review. After 5 years it shall be decided whether accelerated VWO will be regularly anchored in the law.

Each year in October, schools can submit an application, for accelerated VWO, to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. When the application is approved, schools may start the next school year with offering accelerated VWO.

130 excellent schools in the Netherlands

News item January 2016

In January 2016 130 schools have heard that they can call themselves ‘excellent’ the coming three years. A total of 210 schools from primary education, special education and secondary education applied for this designation . A list of the schools that are chosen by the jury can be found on the inspectorate website (only available in Dutch). 

Over the past three years, the designation for excellent schools was organized by Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Since 2016 the Inspectorate for Education has the final responsibility. A new thing is that the designations are not valid for one year, but remain valid for three years. 

More space for establishing new schools

News item January 2016

Freedom of education will celebrate its hundredth anniversary next year, but the effects of Article 23 of the Constitution are a bit out of date. Last July (2015) the State Secretary of Education already mentioned that this has to change. For the last few months there has been worked on a modern effect of this Article, in consultation with a number of different parties. Meanwhile, a draft bill is made ‘More Space for New Schools’ (only available in Dutch).

Modern interpretation of the Constitution
This bill modifies the procedures for starting new publicly and privately run schools in primary and secondary education. So that schools better reflect the actual interest of students and parents. There will be more room for new initiatives, based on religion, but also for initiatives on pedagogical basis.
This contributes to more variety in education. To achieve this, the term ‘direction’ will be removed from some education acts. The specific direction of a school will no longer play a role in the decision whether schools receive funding (from the government). The bill proposes to replace the current forecast (to show if there is a sufficient number of potential students, based on the direction) by a measurement of actual interests in a new school. Initiatives for new schools can make use of declarations of parents or market research.

Guaranteeing quality
The State Secretary proposes to base the assessment of new schools on the expected quality. This also meets the responsibility of the government to ensure the quality of education, as is laid down in Article 23 of the Constitution. In the current system, the expected quality plays no role in the decision whether a school receives funding. By creating more opportunities for new schools it is necessary to ensure that only the good schools go ahead. It is important that the quality of schools can be guaranteed. Therefore, the draft bill introduces a quality check  prior to the start of a new school.

From January 13 stakeholders and interested parties could respond on the proposal via an internet consultation. This consultation is closed by the end of February 2016. The responses will be assimilated and the draft bill will be submitted to a number of advisory bodies, such as the Advisory Council for Education and the Council of State. The aim is to offer the bill to the Lower House in early 2017.


Greater scope for specialist secondary school teachers to teach at primary schools

News item December 2015

Teachers with a secondary school teaching qualification will also be able to teach their specialist subject at primary school. This means that talented children will be introduced to subjects like physics at a younger age and that pupils will be better prepared for the transition to secondary school. The new measures approved by the Cabinet come in response to the proposal submitted by Sander Dekker, the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science. The measures are due to be introduced on 1 August 2016.
At present, primary schools may bring in secondary school teachers to independently teach foreign languages and a small number of creative subjects such as music and handicrafts. As there is no clear reason for this restriction the range is being expanded to include subjects like geography, history, social studies, maths and physics. This is in line with the wishes of schools, teachers, parents and pupils to have more subjects taught by specialist teachers.

Challenging education
Research shows that many children are bored in class and do not feel sufficiently challenged. Specialist teachers are particularly well-equipped to provide more advanced teaching for primary school pupils, thus motivating them to develop their talents. The idea was part of the Top Talent Action Plan drawn up by the State Secretary to make education more challenging. The amendment to the law will make this possible.

Smoother transition
Another advantage of bringing secondary school teachers into primary schools is that it will smooth the transition from primary to secondary education. The two types of schools currently know too little about one another. Many primary school teachers do not realise what is expected of pupils at secondary schools, while secondary school teachers have too little insight into teaching practices at primary schools. This measure should enable an exchange of information which will reduce the gap between primary and secondary school.

More room for cooperation between schools in secondary education dealing with shrinking student populations

News item December 2015

Schools in secondary education are allowed to outsource to other schools half of the duration of a pupil’s education The measure enables schools to cooperate more closely and thus also enables them to combat the consequences of demographic shrinkage and declining student populations. The new measures, approved by the Cabinet, come in response to the proposal submitted by Sander Dekker, the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science.

In this way, schools can utilize their educational facilities more effectively, such as property or practice space, even when a school’s pupil population is declining. So far, schools could only outsource students up until half of the school year.

State Secretary Dekker: ‘Schools themselves have asked for the expansion. The measure is a new possibility to the continuously growing tool kit of schools to adequately respond to the consequences of shrinking pupil populations.’ 

A condition posed to outsourcing pupils as such is that a school must continue to offer at least one profile in its upper secondary education. A school must furthermore provide solid arrangements in order to maintain contact with a student, also if he or she has been outsourced.

Experimental deregulation at outstanding schools

News item October 2015

Outstanding primary and secondary schools are to take part in an experiment that relaxes statutory regulations on, for instance, the number of classroom hours and the subjects taught. Schools may deviate from educational regulations if they are convinced that an alternative approach would help boost the quality and effectiveness of teaching. The cabinet has approved the proposal to this end by Sander Dekker, the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science. The experiment is due to start on 1 January 2016.

Regulations can stand in the way of initiatives and innovation. The government wants schools to have maximum scope for tailoring their teaching, so that every pupil is taught in the best possible way. Being able to deviate from regulations can sometimes be useful, but care must be taken because the regulations are there for good reason. They safeguard the minimum quality that schools are required to deliver.

Proven quality
Mr Dekker wants to start the experiment with schools that have twice been designated as ‘outstanding’. They have already proved that they can deliver high-quality education and inspire confidence that they can operate with less regulation. To date, 44 schools have registered for the experiment. More schools may take part in the long term, particularly those that perform well.

Conditions of the experiment
The schools participating in the experiment may not opt out of regulation completely. For example, secondary school pupils must be able to obtain full leaving-certificates, so that they do not encounter problems when they go on to further study. Schools also remain accountable for their expenditure. Finally, parents, pupils and teachers on the participation council must agree to the school taking part in the experiment.

Dekker: better access to school information for parents and pupils

News item October 2015

Statistics and information about primary and secondary schools must be made more accessible to parents and pupils, as this can help them choose the right school and boost their involvement in education. It also reveals the quality of teaching more effectively, according to education state secretary Sander Dekker in a letter to parliament.

Schools have a great deal of scope for tailoring their education and developing their identity, but they often fail to present themselves effectively. School statistics and other information may be unavailable or obscure.

Digital platform
The school website needs to be improved to make it the main platform for comparing schools all over the country. Many schools have not yet posted a full profile on the website. A site of this kind is only useful if all schools take part and if the information is geared to what parents and pupils want to know, not what schools want to tell them. To this end, the Primary and Secondary Education Councils, in consultation with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, will conduct an extensive survey of users, including parents and pupils.

Working together for greater transparency
Over the next two years the state secretary, in partnership with schools, parents and pupils, wants to make information about schools more easily accessible. The national organisation for the parents of children in education (Ouders & Onderwijs) stresses the importance of greater transparency in education. This view is echoed by LAKS, the pupil representative organisation.

Enhancing quality
Mr Dekker believes that the quality of education will improve if schools are more open about what they stand for. Where necessary, school boards and schools will be encouraged and helped to use the statistics to improve the quality of their classroom teaching.

A key role for participation councils
Financial information is important in order to understand the financial choices schools make. Annual reports, for example, should as a rule be published. Well-written, readable documents help teachers, parents and pupils on participation councils to ask critical questions about what the school is spending money on.

More information in the public domain
Under the open data principle, Ministry information about schools should also be available to the general public. This includes information about the advice on secondary school choice for primary school leavers, school-leaving test results, and the number of teachers receiving a teacher development grant. The goal is to present these data in apps designed for parents, pupils and schools.

Scores on arithmetic attainment test improving

News item June 2015

Mandatory arithmetic attainment test for all secondary school pupils
For many years, the business community, universities and institutions of higher professional education have been complaining about young people’s lack of proficiency in arithmetic. So five years ago, a broad-based action plan was launched to improve numeracy and literacy. Testing was introduced to ensure that pupils in secondary education and secondary vocational education keep their arithmetic skills up-to-date. In 2010 the House of Representatives decided to introduce a mandatory arithmetic attainment for pupils doing their school-leaving examinations.

Provisional data for the first half of 2015 show that secondary school pupils achieved higher scores on the arithmetic attainment test than in 2014. The average mark was 6.1 out of 10, 0.2 higher than in the previous year. Starting in the 2015/2016 school year, most pupils in secondary and secondary vocational education will need to pass the arithmetic attainment test in order to get their school-leaving certificate. In the first year that this new requirement is in force, pupils will need a score of 5 out of 10 to pass. Currently, over 87% of secondary school pupils achieve this mark, and almost 64% get a 6 or higher. These data were published in the Progress Report on Arithmetic Attainment submitted to parliament in June 2015 by education minister Jet Bussemaker and state secretary Sander Dekker.

Various problems with the test, which is done on a computer, were identified in the pilot stage. These have been resolved and should help boost results further. The arithmetic attainment test is released afterwards, just like the national exam, so that everyone can see the questions set. In addition, a higher proportion of problems are straight sums and more attention has been paid to using simpler language in the arithmetic word problems. At the request of teachers and pupils, it is now possible to scroll backwards and forwards through the test. This means that candidates can review their answers or postpone solving problems they find difficult. In addition, about 150 math teachers were involved in setting the new-style tests. Finally, schools will be given extra help in developing more effective forms of arithmetic teaching.

Secondary schools take arithmetic seriously
The Progress Report shows that more and more schools and pupils understand the importance of the arithmetic attainment test and are acting accordingly. General secondary and secondary vocational (MBO) schools are taking extra measures to prepare their pupils, notably by providing extra classes, investing in extra arithmetic teachers and appointing arithmetic coordinators. This is starting to bear fruit. In 2015 64% of pupils achieved at least a 6 out of 10, compared with 58% in 2014. The results of secondary vocational pupils will be published after the summer.

Tailor-made approach for pupils with severe numeracy problems
An adapted test has been developed for pupils who find arithmetic particularly difficult. They may sit the test up to four times. These pupils may even take the test orally, providing the school can prove that they satisfy all the criteria for dyscalculia. Pupils with severe learning difficulties combined with, for instance, performance anxiety now have real prospects for passing the test.

Distinction for top achievers at secondary school

News item June 2015

Starting in the 2015/2016 school year, secondary school pupils in the Netherlands will be given a distinction (‘judicium cum laude’) on their school-leaving certificate if their average mark is 8 out of 10 or higher. The measure applies to pupils in pre-university education (VWO), senior general secondary education (HAVO) and pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO). It will be a new way of acknowledging outstanding achievement by highly gifted and talented pupils. The Cabinet has approved a bill on this subject by the State Secretary for Education, Sander Dekker.

The distinction enables talented pupils to distinguish themselves more effectively as they pursue future studies and enter the labour market.

Awarding distinctions is part of the Top Talent Action Plan 2014 – 2018. The plan also calls for talented pupils to be given opportunities to attend extramural courses, complete their course more rapidly and study subjects at a higher level if they show aptitude.

The measures should help gifted pupils get the most out of their education and stimulate an ambitious culture of learning within the Dutch education system.

More focus on transition from VMBO to MBO

News item June 2015

Education minister Jet Bussemaker is introducing measures to prevent pupils with a pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) qualification from failing to complete further education at secondary vocational level (MBO). Every year, about 6,000 young people drop out of education at the point of moving from VMBO to secondary vocational education.

Too many young people are giving up even before starting secondary vocational education. The minister wants schools and municipalities to devote more attention to this group and ensure timely enrolment in further education. One of the measures is to bring forward the enrolment date for secondary vocational education to 1 April, before VMBO pupils sit their final exams. In the Utrecht area, where this measure has been in force for some time, 90% of fourth-year VMBO pupils enrol in further education and training. The minister is also pleased with the results of ‘transition coaches’ in the region. Their task is to assist pupils who lack the necessary self-confidence or motivation to make the transition to secondary vocational education independently.

A digital enrolment system should help schools and municipalities monitor whether young people are actually going on to secondary vocational education, so that they can intervene at an early stage if necessary.

Schools responsible for providing career advice
Ms Bussemaker believes schools should teach pupils to start thinking early on about potential occupations or careers. ‘Start talking to them about what they like to do and where their talents lie. And especially about the type of training that will enable them to get a job. This requires input from young people and their parents, but also from schools. They need to provide good information about job prospects after further education. This helps young people make a more motivated start in further education, which in turn helps reduce the risk of dropout. And it also prevents us from training people for jobs that do not exist,’ the minister said.

Less school dropout
More young people are successfully completing secondary education and secondary vocational education. In the 2014/2015 school year, 2,000 fewer pupils left school without a qualification than in the previous year. Secondary vocational schools in particular made considerable progress in this area, reducing their dropout rate to 5.2%.

Ms Bussemaker will shortly make new agreements with secondary vocational schools about the allocation of financial resources. Schools that are demonstrably working to improve their quality of education will be rewarded with higher funding. Tackling school dropout is a key theme in this connection.


More music education

News item May, 2015

15 schools in primary education started training their teachers in how to give music education. This autumn, also other schools can register themselves.
The Minister of Education, Culture and Science makes € 25 million available till 2020, for schools to improve the professionalism of their teachers. Many parents (85%) think it is important that their children come into contact with music education. However, only 11% of the schools in primary education think that their teachers are professional enough to actually teach in music education. Often teachers feel that they are not capable enough to teach music education. For example many teachers lack the confidence to sing in front of the class.

With the extra amount of money available schools can train their teachers and they can work together with parties in the field of music (like schools of music, brass bands,  orchestras and pop venues). From this autumn (2015) schools can apply for this funding at the 'Fonds voor Cultuurparticipatie'  (fund for participation in culture).

The experiences of the 15 schools, that already started, will be monitored and may serve as an example to inspire other schools.

The State Secretary wants more attention for top talents in regular classes

News item April, 2015

Schools do pay more and more attention to challenging education for top talents. However, research by the Inspectorate of Education shows that this additional activities often are offered outside the regular classes. While these top talents will benefit from extra deepening during the regular lessons. The State secretary of education mentions this in the first progress report on the Top Talent Action Plan 2014 – 2018.

By now more than half of the schools in primary education and more than three-quarters of schools in secondary education put a lot of work in making more challenging education for students (that can manage it). 

More flexible education
The Top Talent Action Plan mentions measures to come to more inspiring education. Some of these measures focus on the flexible organization of education. For example the  bill on ‘Modernizing time in education’. This will become effective in school year 2015/2016 and will make it possible for students to learn at their own pace and follow education outside the walls of school. The final exam decision has been modified so that students can complete courses at an earlier stage. Besides school in secondary education are stimulated to give students the opportunity to follow the subjects where they are best at, at a higher level of education.

It is also important that the performances of students are seen and rewarded. From next school year (2015/2016) schools can reward students with the mention of ‘cum laude’ on their diploma. In more and more schools special achievements beyond the regular lessons can be registered in a ‘plus document’, this is an initiative from the Secondary education Council (VO-Raad). In the coming years, the State secretary and the Minister of Education will ensure that students with an edge can have a more fluent transition to the next grade or to the university. So that these students don’t have to learn all the subjects they already know again.

Eight regional Talent Networks have been set up, in which schools learn from each other, to support school and teachers in making education more challenging. More information for teachers and other professionals can be found on: (only in Dutch available).


The Cabinet invests more than €50 million for the promotion of language and reading

News item March, 2015

Children should not grow up in a language-poor environment and people with difficulties in reading, writing and communicating should be able to get language training (across the country). This is an important message from the Cabinet in her new approach to language deficiencies. Municipalities have a key role in this approach. The Cabinet wants doctors, child health centers, playgroups and schools to be better equipped to detect language deficiencies. Besides libraries have a  key role in writing and reading activities for people of all ages (both young as old). Moreover, businesses and health care institutions will be enabled to combat language problems at the shop floor and in health care.

Further the government makes an appeal to people to read more often or being a language buddy of people with low literacy skills. The Minister of Education, Culture and Science, the Minister of Social Affairs and the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport together put €18 million per year aside, for the period 2016-2018, to combat language deficiencies.

With this action plan ‘Tel mee met Taal (Count along with language)’ the Ministers and State Secretary want that at least 45,000 people significantly improve their mastery of a language and they want that a million children at the age of primary school increase their language skills and the enjoyment of reading.

Recognizable language points in libraries, community centers or regional training centers should more often link people with a language difficulty to language buddies, to make access to a language course easier. Volunteers play an important role in addressing language deficiency. Thousands of people, on a voluntary basis, are helping others with reading and writing. An example is the ‘VoorleesExpress (Reading Express)’. In around 100 municipalities this express makes sure that families, whose parents have low command of the language, get a weekly reader that visit them, to stimulate the language development of the children.

Official start of Platform #Onderwijs2032 

News item February, 2015

On February the 12th, the State Secretary of education gave the official start of the Platform #Onderwijs2032 (Education 2032).
Last November the State Secretary started a ‘national brainstorm’ about the content of our education. Anyone with ideas could share this via # onderwijs2032. The result was more than 17 000 responses with ideas.

The platform will structure and deepen the social dialogue and they will make an international comparative analysis. On this basis, the platform will inform and advise the government, this fall, about what kind of knowledge and skills students should learn in school to participate optimally in our future society. This advice will form the basis for the revision of the content of education in the coming years.

For more  information see National dialogue about the future of edcuation and please visit the website: (only in Dutch available).

Outstanding schools 2014

News item January, 2015

On Monday 26 January 2015 the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science awarded to 106 schools the designation of ‘Excellent school 2014 – outstanding schools’. 22 percent of the designations go to school in special education and practical training.

It appears that excellent primary schools have twice as many students that lag behind than other schools in the area. Excellent schools don’t have only excellent students. Excellence is characterized by having an eye for every student and to act as well. The inspectorate of education will be from now on responsible for the implementation of this designation.

Please go to Promoting Excellence for more information.


The renewal of VMBO

News item December, 2014

VMBO (Pre-vocational secondary education) will be radically renewed. Students in vocational education will soon chose a profile with basic subjects and supplement this with practical subjects. In this way students will get a wide basis and more space to develop their own talents. Besides schools (level VMBO), MBO-institutions and businesses together will design the content of education. This renewal will prepare students better for their choice for a study and the regional labor market.

The new design for VMBO will start in school year 2016/2017. From that moment students in upper secondary education of VMBO will choose one profile supplemented with vocational electives. Students can choose from ten profiles and on top of that will put together a deepening, broadening and cross-profile program. These profiles are drawn up by teachers in VMBO and MBO. The Cabinet approved this bill, that regulates the system of profiles and vocational electives in VMBO.

The ten profiles are as follows:

  • Economics and Business
  • Catering industry, Bakery and Recreation/Leisure
  • Care and Welfare
  • Green
  • Maritime and Technology
  • Building, Living/Housing and Interior
  • Manufacture, Installing and Energy
  • Mobility and Transport
  • Media, Design and ICT
  • Services and Products.

Schools will work together to ensure that there is a well supply in subjects. By filling in the electives the regional businesses will get a prominent role. Besides schools (VMBO) and institutions (MBO) together are encouraged to offer an education program with a better fit of subjects and no unnecessary overlap.

More attention will also be paid to the transition from VMBO to MBO. Career orientation and guidance will be an obligated part of the new (vocational) curriculum. This will help students in making conscious choices and in being better prepared for continuing education. 

Besides it is also important that education in VMBO is intended on future developments and needs. The results of the brainstorm on Onderwijs 2032 (Education 2032) can be taken into account. The State Secretary of education invests  € 5.5 million in the professionalization of teachers for this renewed VMBO, because this new structure will demand on the adaptability of schools and teachers.

National dialogue about the future of education

News item November, 2014

The State Secretary of education has started a national dialogue about one of the most important questions in education: What do children have to learn at school to be ready for the future?

Children who attend school nowadays will apply for their first jobs in 2032. The main question is whether these children learn things which will help them in their future jobs. This has to deal with the content of education.

The State Secretary of education advocates a national dialogue. On the 17th of November 2014 the start of this project is launched. From similar projects in Finland, Norway and Scotland it has become clear that thinking about en shaping the curriculum is too important to be left to only one party. Therefore it is important to involve teachers, students, parents but also the labor market and science.

The State Secretary invites everyone to share ideas about the improvement of education via #onderwijs2032 (see

A group of experts, inside and outside the education sector, will connect all these ideas. In the autumn of 2015 this should lead to a broad-based vision about what children must know and what they should be able of when they finish school. This vision will be further elaborated together with inter alia teachers. This will lead, step by step, to a more concrete content of education for the future.

Allowed attainment tests for primary education

News item November, 2014

The State Secretary of education has decided to allow three attainments tests for pupils in the final year of primary school.

  • the Board of Examinations (College voor Toetsen en Examens, or CvTE) supplies the central attainment test (only in Dutch available). This is done on behalf of the Ministry of education, culture and science (OCW).
  • the attainment test ROUTE 8  (only in Dutch available) of A-VISION
  • the IEP  (only in Dutch available) test (ICE attainment test primary education) of the ICE bureau.

This three tests contain the required components: language and arithmetic. Schools do not have to pay for these tests.

From school year 2014/2015, all pupils in the final year of primary school will have to sit some form of attainment test. From school year 2015/2016 schools are obligated to use one of the three above mentioned tests. These tests are approved for a period of four years. Every year the quality of the tests will be checked.

Pupils have to make their final test later in the school year: in April / May instead of February. By shifting this final test to a later moment, the advice on secondary education will be more leading to the admission to secondary schools.

Music education for all pupils in schools

News item October, 2014

Pupils in primary education will get more and better music education. The minister of education agreed with Joop van den  Ende (a well-known Dutch man in the field of television and musicals) and the Orange Fund (Oranjefonds) that they will work together to give music education in schools a major boost. The ministry pulls up € 25 million to 2020 for it. Van den Ende committed to gather, together with private parties, also € 25 million and to start a campaign. The Orange Fund strives to continue the program ‘Children making music’ the next three years.

There is great public support for more and better music. 85% of the parents find it important that their children come into contact with music at schools. However, only 11% of the schools feel that their teachers are professional enough to give music education. Besides, teachers often do not feel competent enough to give music education. ‘It is not that they don’t want to give music education, but they often lack the confidence for example to sing in front of the class’.

With the extra funding schools can increase the expertise of the teachers. Besides, schools can collaborate with all kind of parties in the field of music. In this way, children can develop themselves in the music and artistic level.

Schools can work with cultural institutions to submit their plans to the Fund for Cultural participation. The design of the plans of the schools can be different. In a city it will probably more usual to collaborate with a conservatory or pop venue, while in rural areas it will be more usual to collaborate with for example a brass band. With this broad approach the minister also responds to the desire of politics and society to have more contemporary music education and more connection with the amateur art.

Agreement on joint approach to tackle bullying

News item October, 2014

The State Secretary of education, the Primary Education Council and the Secondary Education Council have made an agreement on a joint approach to tackle bullying. The education laws will explicit mention the responsibility of schools to give social safety. The councils support schools through the action plan ‘Social safety at schools’ in creating a socially safe environment for their students. The obligation for schools to choose a method that has been proven effective expires, on condition that schools can demonstrate that their approach works and that the children benefit from it. It is important to stimulate the awareness of schools to tackle bullying. Schools will also provide a point of contact within the school for students and parents in situations of bullying.

The Primary Education Council and the Secondary Education Council will support schools for example by helping them to appoint a contact person for students and parents in situations of bullying. The sector councils, in cooperation with the ‘Dutch Youth Institute’ and the ‘Center for School and Safety’, will make information available on proven effective programs and methods and they facilitate knowledge exchange between schools and the collaboration with experts.

The proposal to amend the sector laws (on education) will soon go for advice to the Council of State. It is intended that the new agreements enter into force from school year 2015/2016. 

Appropriate education

News item September, 2014

Children with a disability or behavioural problems are entitled to appropriate education. They may be placed in special education or given extra guidance at a mainstream school. From 1 August 2014 schools must arrange appropriate education places for pupils who need extra help.
The Appropriate Education Act will come into effect on 1 August 2014. The Act will impose a duty of care on schools to offer all pupils an appropriate place. Under the old system, parents themselves had to find an appropriate school if their child required extra assistance or facilities. As of 1 August 2014 they can enrol their child in the school of their choice and it will be the school’s responsibility to arrange an appropriate place for the child: within the school, at another mainstream school or at a special school. Mainstream schools and special schools (categories 3 and 4) have formed regional consortia to ensure that all children can be placed at the school that best meets their needs.

From 2018 the regional consortia for appropriate education (secondary education) will have the possibility and space to determine whether practical training or learning support (lwoo) is the best fitting education for the child. Schools will do this based on the local situation, vision and criteria. From 2016 practical training and learning support will be completely part of this new system for appropriate education. So that schools are able to deliver more customized decisions. In the first years pupils still be referred based on the old rules.

School consortia at regional level
Schools are to work together at regional level in order to provide appropriate education for all categories of special needs pupils. It is not possible for every mainstream school to cater for every kind of special needs pupil. If a school cannot provide an appropriate place, they must find one within the consortium that can. Schools may specialize and agree among themselves which institution can offer the best education to particular target groups.
Teachers and school leaders will be given a key role in the new system. After all, they know the pupils in question and understand their needs. Within each school consortium, agreements are set out in a support plan. Among other things, it sets out how schools:

  • organize appropriate education in their region;
  • spend funding for extra support to pupils;
  • refer pupils to special education;
  • inform parents.

To promote teacher and parent participation in the support plan, the school consortia will have their own participation council. The support plan will be included in the inspections of the Education Inspectorate.

Financing appropriate education
Under the new system, the government is to abolish personal budgets. Instead, from 1 August 2014, these funds and resources are allocated to the regional consortia. The school boards in the consortium will then decide how the funding can best be spent on teaching and is responsible for deploying the funds to support special needs children in mainstream education.

Agreement Primary Education

News item July, 2014

The government and the primary education sector have reached an agreement. Annually there will be € 444 million available for better education. Schools in primary education will use the coming years more digital learning tools in class. The government and the primary education council made agreements about improving the quality of education and the way there are planning to do this. € 286 million of the € 444 million  is added by the government. With the help of this agreement schools can better response to the differences between pupils.

Digital learning tools  are important to better connect to the needs of the individual pupils. This applies for all kind of pupils. The objective of this agreement is that in 2020 nine out of ten schools use digital learning tools in their lessons. The primary education council,  the ministry of Education and the ministry of Economic affairs together will improve the supply of digital learning tools.

Teaching in foreign languages in primary school

News item June, 2014

The Cabinet has decided to give primary schools more scope to teach English, German or French intensively at an early age. From 1 August 2015, primary schools are permitted to set aside 15% of their classroom time to using one of these languages as a medium of instruction. Not only pupils then learn English, for instance, as a subject on the curriculum; they also take other subjects, such as history, biology or PE, through the medium of English. This Cabinet decision comes in response to the aspiration of schools and parents to give children an education that is more international, more challenging, and less bound by rules.

The law as it stands makes Dutch and (in Friesland) Frisian the only permitted media of instruction in primary schools, with English a compulsory subject on the curriculum. Schools are also permitted to offer French and German as subjects.

More than 1,000 primary schools offer foreign language learning from the age of 4 or 5. In recent years, some have been experimenting with the use of foreign languages as a medium of instruction in other subjects for up to 15% of classroom time. Their experience has been so positive that all primary schools are being offered the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.

Bilingual education pilot project launched
In this school year (2014/2015), a five-year pilot project is launched at 12 Dutch primary schools where 30-50% of classroom time will be set aside for teaching through the medium of English, German or French. In 2015, another eight schools may follow. By 2019, if the project at these 20 schools proves successful, a decision may be made to permit bilingual education by law, although it is expected to appeal to a relatively small number of primary schools.

Sectoral agreement on secondary education

The government and the Secondary Education Council have concluded a basic agreement on future-proof secondary education (see the sectoral agreement on secondary education for 2014-2017). This provides for an annual maximum budget of €369 million, the bulk of which will be spent on maintaining and enhancing teachers’ knowledge and skills. The sectoral agreements are derived from the National Education Agreement of September 2013.

The basic agreement is based on the following principles:

  •  Challenging, contemporary education that makes the most of pupils’ talents. A maximum annual budget of €43 million is to be allocated for creating challenging education for the highest-achieving pupils in pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO), senior general secondary education (HAVO) and pre-university education (VWO). An annual sum of €9 million has been earmarked for summer schools. Pupils will also have the chance to obtain a special ‘Plus Portfolio’ that highlights their achievements and skills in such areas as sport, art and enterprise.
  • Use of modern teaching materials by teachers. Digital resources make it possible to tailor education to the individual pupil and create personalised learning resources. To this end, the Secondary Education Council and the Ministries of Education, Culture & Science and of Economic Affairs are jointly working on the ‘Education and ICT Breakthrough Project’, creating curriculum content in association with market parties and developers.
  • Professionalism at school: schools should be regarded as professional organisations and provide a challenging work environment for teachers and school leaders. Sustained efforts will be made to promote the professional development of teachers, school leaders and managers.
  • More teachers with master’s degrees: by 2020, at least half of all secondary school teachers should have master’s degrees. Established teachers who wish to study for a master’s degree can apply for a teacher development grant, and their schools must ensure that they are given sufficient time for study. Schools must also do more to recruit and retain teachers with master’s degrees. A total annual budget of €75 million is available for implementing these measures.
  • Continuing teacher education: more funding will be made available to ensure that teachers are qualified and competent to deal with individual pupil differences. This means, among other things, that young teachers will receive better guidance and established teachers will continue to maintain and update their subject knowledge and other forms of expertise. A Register of Teachers will also be created. Teachers will be given the time and opportunity for continuing professional education, and achievements in this area will be recorded in the Register. This should reduce the number of unqualified teachers currently working in schools.
  • Abolishing mediocrity: besides sustaining their efforts to reduce the number of poor and failing schools, the Secondary Education Council and the government want to help mediocre schools to perform better. Schools in this category must be more active in providing information to parents and pupils about their performance and aims. As the quality of education demonstrably improves, the level of monitoring by the Education Inspectorate will be gradually reduced.

Top Talent Action Plan 2014 – 2018

Earlier examinations for gifted and talented pupils

It will soon be possible for secondary school pupils who perform extremely well in certain subjects to take their final exams earlier than is currently allowed. The time they save will enable them to take on challenges such as new subjects or enrichment activities

Pupils can already take their final exams in the year before the one in which they are due to complete the course. On the recommendation of Sander Dekker, the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, the regulations are to be further relaxed to allow top achievers, for instance in the 4th year of the pre-university stream (VWO), to take their final exams 2 years early.

To stimulate talent, provide challenge and reward excellence, schools want greater flexibility in shaping their pupils' education and training. This includes making it possible for pupils to take exams in certain subjects ahead of their class. As a spin-off, pupils would have time to study new subjects or pursue enrichment activities. They would also be better equipped to take exams in more than 1 combination of specialised subjects.
The new measure is part of the Top Talent Action Plan for 2014-2018 presented to parliament this spring.

Outstanding pupils at all levels of education
The top 20% of high-achieving pupils at each level of education are considered gifted or talented. Being gifted or talented is not limited to being clever and knowing a lot. It is also about creativity, craftsmanship and skills.
Achievement can be stimulated through public recognition of good work, such as awarding a certificate to a primary school pupil who excels at language, maths or technology. The government is also considering the scope for scholarships or other financial incentives to promote excellence and boost achievement.

On 9 March 2014 the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science presented the Top Talent Action Plan for 2014 – 2018 (in Dutch only) containing over 20 measures to stimulate and focus more on talent in primary and secondary education, for instance:

  • a pupil will be given a distinction on their school-leaving certificate if they have an average mark in their leaving examination of 8/10 or higher;
  • pupils will be able to study subjects at a higher level or complete the course more rapidly;
  • schools can offer extra material or subjects;
  • workplace-based assignments will count as classroom time;
  • businesses will provide grants for gifted and talented pupils at secondary schools;
  • better use of ICT;
  • more effective transfer of information about gifted and talented pupils when they move from primary to secondary school;
  • more effective teaching of gifted and talented pupils.

Measures for secondary vocational education (MBO) and higher education will be publicised later in 2014.

Since 2013 primary and secondary schools with a pre-university stream have been eligible for an annual €30 million for top-achieving pupils. The government wishes to spend this funding on gifted and talented pupils at all levels of education.

In four years’ time, a new poll will be carried out among pupils, parents, teachers and school leaders. This should indicate whether gifted and talented pupils feel they are being more effectively challenged, whether top performance is indeed being rewarded, and whether teachers feel better equipped to cater for gifted and talented pupils.


National Education Agreement

Current education policy is aimed at raising the standard of education from good to outstanding. To make this happen, the government is committed to addressing five crucial issues:

  • the content and quality of education;
  • recruiting and keeping the best teachers;
  • terms of employment for teachers;
  • the relationship between the government and the education field;
  • education management and governance at every level.

Strategic objectives on these themes are set out in the National Education Agreement, which was definitively adopted in October 2013.

A total of €689 million has been invested in the National Education Agreement. Of this sum, €250 million has been earmarked to improve the quality of education in MBO institutions, while €344 million has been allocated to primary and secondary education. Efforts are under way to reduce the number of unqualified teachers. To this end, a Register of Teachers is to be created, along the lines of registers for other professions such as accountants, lawyers and doctors. By 2017 all practising teachers must be listed in the register. This will ensure that pupils are taught by teachers who hold the appropriate qualifications and are engaged in maintaining their level of competence and knowledge.

Major agreements have also been made about the future of education, notably about boosting employment and updating labour conditions. It is hoped that these will make it possible to intensify secondary vocational education as envisaged in the coalition agreement. Besides agreements with direct funding implications, significant agreements have also been made with the education field about diminishing the current administrative burden and pressure of work, and about creating scope for the continuing education of teachers.

English in the primary school curriculum

In July 2013 the government presented an action plan;(in Dutch only) for English in the primary school curriculum. It is considered vital for pupils to get an early introduction to English in order to acquire a good foundation in the subject.

Under the action plan, primary schools will offer other foreign languages (German and French) at an earlier stage in the primary school curriculum, besides English, which is compulsory. It is intended that early foreign language teaching (VVTO) will be offered by about 1,000 primary schools.

Before taking this step, a primary school and the teacher in question must establish that the teacher has sufficient competence to teach English at the required level. The government is continuing to invest in start-up grants for early foreign language learning. Schools can apply for these grants, for instance for in-service courses for teachers. In addition, a bill is currently being drafted that will allow all primary schools to use English, French or German as the medium of instruction in up to 15% of classroom hours.

A bilingual primary education pilot project is to be launched at 12 Dutch primary schools in the 2014/2015 school year. The basic principles are as follows:

  • participating primary schools teach between 30% and 50% of their classroom hours in English, German or French;
  • content and attainment targets are geared to the Dutch curriculum;
  • the bilingual primary education programme has a strongly international focus;
  • the participating schools work together in a close network, sharing their knowledge and experience.

Subjects such as gym and history may also be taught through the medium of English. In principle, schools can also apply to teach through the medium of French or German.

The action plan for early foreign language teaching has been allocated an annual budget of around €1.5 million for the next few years. The funding is intended for the bilingual primary education pilot project, and for in-service training and support for teachers and schools.

National Technology Pact 2020

The National Technology Pact 2020 (in Dutch only) was signed in May 2013. It covers primary, secondary, vocational and higher education, and the labour market for science and technology professionals. For more information, see 14.2.5, Transversal skills and employability.

Promoting excellence (2012/2013)

Outstanding schools
Since 2012 primary and secondary schools that distinguish themselves by providing top-quality education may be officially designated as ‘outstanding’. The designation is based not only on educational outcomes but also on pupil achievement that is not directly expressed through high marks.

The best schools get the best out of their pupils. Besides enabling pupils to achieve outstanding results, they provide extra coaching for those who need it or create extra challenges for gifted and talented pupils.
On 4 February 2013 the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science announced that for 2012 31 primary schools and 21 secondary schools had been officially designated as ‘outstanding’. The schools were awarded a special plaque and logo and offered a special staff activity such as:

  • creating a school magazine about excellence;
  • having an ‘inspiration dinner’ with other outstanding schools; or
  • organising a masterclass on the subject of the teenage brain.

Schools do not receive extra funding from the government for being outstanding.

Learning from one another
Outstanding schools serve as a model for their peers. The website (only Dutch site available) encourages schools to learn from one another. For instance, outstanding schools explain how they organise their teaching. The ‘Schools learn from one another’ scheme supports schools in their development. They can take part in activities like workshops, masterclasses, inspiration talks and exchange visits.
On 13 January 2013 the Prime Minister and the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science announced that for 2013 76 schools had been officially designated as ‘outstanding’:

Since 2013 also special schools for primary education, special (secondary) education and practical training can be designated as outstanding.

Source of all of the above articles: Site of the Government(site with these articles is only available in Dutch).