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Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

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Overview Netherlands

Contents

Netherlands:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Netherlands:Historical Development

Netherlands:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Netherlands:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Netherlands:Political and Economic Situation

Netherlands:Organisation and Governance

Netherlands:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Netherlands:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Netherlands:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Netherlands:Organisation of Private Education

Netherlands:National Qualifications Framework

Netherlands:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Netherlands:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Netherlands:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Netherlands:Funding in Education

Netherlands:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Netherlands:Higher Education Funding

Netherlands:Adult Education and Training Funding

Netherlands:Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Organisation of Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Assessment in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Primary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of Primary Education

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Netherlands:Assessment in Primary Education

Netherlands:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Netherlands:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

Netherlands:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Netherlands:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of Vocational Secondary Education (MBO)

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Secondary Education (MBO)

Netherlands:Assessment in Vocational Secondary Education (MBO)

Netherlands:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Netherlands:Higher Education

Netherlands:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Netherlands:First Cycle Programmes

Netherlands:Bachelor

Netherlands:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Netherlands:Second Cycle Programmes

Netherlands:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Netherlands:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Netherlands:Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Distribution of Responsibilities

Netherlands:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Netherlands:Main Providers

Netherlands:Main Types of Provision

Netherlands:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Netherlands:Teachers and Education Staff

Netherlands:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Management and Other Education Staff

Netherlands:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Netherlands:Management Staff for Higher Education

Netherlands:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Quality Assurance

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Educational Support and Guidance

Netherlands:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Netherlands:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Netherlands:Mobility and Internationalisation

Netherlands:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Mobility in Higher Education

Netherlands:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

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

Netherlands:Legislation

Netherlands:Institutions

Netherlands:Bibliography

Netherlands:Glossary

Curriculum, subjects, number of hours

The government, schools and teachers together shape the curriculum. Recent criticism created a new dialogue and the necessary to renovate the current curriculum. These sentiments stimulated the origin of a new platform, called ‘Education 2032’ (only available in Dutch). Important aspects that gain attention are ICT- literacy, problem solve- skills, critical thinking, and the forming of social competences. However, the new platform is still developing and not ready yet to implement. 

In the lower years of secondary education the attainment targets (in Dutch) specify the standards of knowledge, understanding and skills pupils are required to attain in the lower years of secondary school. These targets describe:

  • What the pupils should learn to function well in the society as a person, a civilian or as an employee
  • The school decides in which schoolyear which programme is followed. The exact information can be found in the school plan.
  • On average, two-third of the of the first two years need to be spend on education focused on the attainment targets. Besides that, havo and vwo pupils need to follow next to English two opther foreign languages (mostly French and German).
  • In general, one- third of the time is available for own choices.  The school needs to prepare the pupils for the upper secondary school and be accountable about the optional component to parents, pupils and staff.
  • Via the participation council the parents are able to influence the implementation of the optional component.

The Secondary Education Act (WVO) states, for the upper years of each type of education, which subjects must in any event be included in the curriculum. The Secondary Education (Organisation of Teaching) Decree prescribes the number of periods to be spent on each subject or group of subjects in the form of a study load table.

Every school must have a school plan, updated every four years.

  • This plan describes the steps being taken to monitor, improve quality and indicating the school’s policy on educational matters;
  • It includes staffing and education quality.
  • Through this document, the school accounts to the Inspectorate and the participation council for its policies.
  • A school plan may cover one or more schools in secondary education and one or more other schools which share the same competent authority (school board).
  • It must be approved by the participation council (MR). 

The school prospectus: is a compulsory guide.

  • which must be updated every year
  • contains information for parents and pupils about the school’s objectives, how it intends to achieve them and the results already achieved.
  • It also gives details about the voluntary parental contribution and the rights and obligations of parents and pupils.
  • The prospectus has to be approved by the parents, staff and pupils before publication.

The right of complaint supplements the existing opportunities for participation in decision-making and the management of the school. The school board is obliged by law to draw up a complaints procedure. Every school must also have a complaints committee with an independent chairperson.  

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science publishes an annual national guide (only avaible in Dutch) onsecondary education on its website:

  • The guide contains information for parents and pupils on their rights and obligations vis-à-vis the school.
  • It is designed to help parents choose the right school for their child and be more involved in school matters.


Curriculum in the lower years VMBO, HAVO, VWO

The Secondary Education Act sets certain requirements of the curriculum, and contains:

  1. provisions on time spent in school
  2. deployment of staff
  3. and participation in decision-making.

It leaves schools free to draft their own policies on other matters. At least two thirds of teaching hours in the lower years must be spent on the 58 attainment targets. The school itself translates these targets into subjects, projects, areas of learning, and combinations of all three, or into competence-based teaching, for example.

The rest of the curriculum is also subject to statutory requirements, which vary according to the type of education. This includes:

  • a second modern language (French, German, Spanish, Arabic or Turkish) in VMBO (in the theoretical, combined and middle-management vocational programmes).
  • French and German in HAVO and VWO (or Spanish, Russian, Italian, Arabic or Turkish, Frisian in Friesland or Latin and Greek in a ‘gymnasium’)
  • and the elements needed for an uninterrupted learning pathway or to enable the school to establish its special profile (e.g. its religious or philosophical character or an emphasis on sports).

Other requirements include:

  • coherence and an uninterrupted learning pathway from primary to secondary education and from lower to upper secondary education;
  • enabling pupils finishing the second year of VMBO to choose from all the sectors available, and pupils finishing the 3rd year of HAVO and VWO to choose any of the subject combinations.

It is up to the schools themselves to group the attainment targets into subjects, projects, areas of learning and so on, to work them out in detail by type of education, to set standards, choose teaching aids and decide what should be taught in the 3rd year of HAVO/VWO.
More freedom does however mean that schools have to account to the Inspectorate for their policies, and show that they have included all the attainment targets in their curriculum and that pupils enter the upper years properly prepared. They render account to the parents, pupils and staff in the school plan and the school prospectus.


VMBO curriculum

The Secondary Education Act (WVO) specifies the subjects to be studied by VMBO pupils during the four-year course.
VMBO- theoretical programme (VMBO-T)

  • At the end of the second year at the earliest pupils opt for a particular sector and learning pathway.
  • Each sector (engineering and technology, care and welfare, business or agriculture) and each learning pathway (the theoretical programme, combined programme, middle-management vocational programme or basic vocational programme) has its own curriculum.


Subjects in the sector-specific component of the theoretical programme

Sector Subjects
Engineering and technology Mathematics and physics & chemistry 1
Care and welfare Biology and one of mathematics, geography, history or social studies 2 and politics
Business Economics and one of mathematics, French or German
Agriculture Mathematics and either biology or physics & chemistry 1


Subjects in the sector-specific component of the theoretical programme
Each subject combination comprises a common component, an optional component, and a sector-specific component. The common component is compulsory for all pupils and comprises:

  • Dutch
  • English
  • Social studies I
  • Physical education
  • Arts I

Pupils from the combined programme (VMBO-G), the middle-management vocational programme (VMBO- K) and the basic vocational programme (VMBO-B) choose between ten profiles:

  1. Building, living and interior (BWI)
  2. Producing, installating and energy
  3. Mobility and transport
  4. Media, design and ICT
  5. Maritime and technique
  6. Care and welfare
  7. Economy and entrepreneurship
  8. Hospitality, bakery and recreation
  9. Green sector
  10. Services and products

Depending on their learning pathway, pupils follow either one or two additional optional subjects:

  •  two general subjects in the theoretical programme.
  • one major vocationally-oriented subject in the basic vocational and middle-management vocational programmes;
  • one minor vocationally-oriented subject and one general subject in the combined programme.

Schools providing basic vocational programmes may offer programmes combining work and study.

  1. Work-study programmes are learning pathways within the basic vocational programmes that include an out-of-school practical component.
  2. These programmes are specifically aimed at obtaining a basic qualification at basic vocational level.
  3. Pupils must take classes at the least in Dutch and the appropriate vocational subject. They must also make examinations in these subjects. Examinations may also be taken in other subjects, but are not compulsory. Pupils are awarded a special diploma enabling them to go on to related courses at MBO level 2.
  4. Different requirements apply for pupils in the lower years who will be going on to work-study programmes.

Since 2014, special skilled labour and technology routes started. With these training routes vmbo schools in the region and mbo institutions created special programmes. This should ease the transition from VMBO to MBO, and encourage more pupils to follow further education and obtain a basic qualification.


Practical training curriculum

Practical training focuses on the personal and social skills of pupils. It includes at least Dutch language, arithmetic and mathematics, IT studies and physical education plus subjects that prepare pupils for jobs on the regional labour market. These subjects are chosen by the competent authority (school board) in consultation with the municipal authorities and, through them, local employers.


Teaching methods and materials

There are no detailed regulations with regard to the curriculum (content, teaching methods and materials). Some schools organise their teaching according to a particular educational theory. These include Montessori, Dalton and Jena Plan schools, which may be public-authority or private.

  • As of the 2009/2010 school year, schools receive money from the government for necessary textbooks and teaching materials, and loan them to pupils free of charge in accordance with section 6 of the Secondary Education Act.
  • The subject matter covered and the teaching methods used must be described in the school plan.
  • The leaving examination regulations provide guidance as to the content of the various curriculums.
  • The National Expertise Centre (NEC) produces a guide to teaching materials which schools can use to compare existing and new products.
  • The NEC is part of the National Institute for Curriculum Development (SLO). The didactical way of teaching in the upper years is focused on active and independent studying for the pupils.


ICT in education

Over the last few years, the number of schools making intensive use of computers has grown steadily. Teachers use computers as teaching aids primarily for communication and cooperation within groups or finding information on the internet. In the school year 2013- 2014 there was an average of one computer for every five pupils. Many schools have a digital library and computer work areas for groups. Many schools in secondary education have electronic blackboards.