(this information is obtained from http://www.minocw.nl/english/education/index.html )
The Dutch are a highly educated people. The level of participation in education is high: of the Netherlands' 16 million inhabitants, nearly 3.5 million attend some form of educational program. One out of three school-leavers now completes a first university degree.
Nevertheless, as a traditional centre of knowledge the country will face a number of challenges in the coming years, the most important of which are the need to make further improvements in the quality of education and to provide equal opportunities for everyone, variety of choice in education and specially tailored content and counselling. The greatest threat is the increasing teacher shortage in primary, secondary, university and professional education.
For more information about the Dutch education system, see the information file on Eurydice, the European education information network (The Education System in the Netherlands 2007.). The file provides a general introduction to the education system in the Netherlands. It also gives information about the Dutch political system and economy.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) is a Dutch government component that makes policies, drafts legislation and appropriates public funds on behalf of Dutch citizens. It serves 3.5 million pupils, students and their parents, as well as artists, curators and teachers, and it serves everyone else in the Netherlands affected by the activities in its remit.
The Ministry consists of 21 ministerial departments, four cross-sectoral departments, three state services, two agencies, two inspectorates and three associated advisory councils. The OCW aims to give institutions, professionals, parents, participants and other stakeholders greater freedom to make their own choices. An important aspect is making transparent information on education, culture and science available in an organized and direct manner.
Primary education in the Netherlands comprises general primary education, special primary education and (advanced) special education for children with learning and behavioural difficulties and children with learning disabilities. Primary education is intended for all children aged four to approximately twelve years.
Dutch primary education policy is based on providing children with made to measure curricula. Schools are given free rein to spend their budgets as they see fit, for example on personnel or ICT. However, the increased flexibility is paired with assuming responsibility for the results achieved (attainment targets). A tool designed to assist the government and schools in this respect is the education number, which is used to track children throughout their entire school career.
There are around 700 secondary schools in the Netherlands, both publicly and privately run. Secondary education encompasses schools providing pre-university education (VWO; 6 years, age 12-18), senior general secondary education (HAVO; 5 years; age 12-17), pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO; 4 years, age 12-16) and Practical Training (PRO; age 12-18). All four types of secondary education are for children aged twelve and over and all begin with a period of basic secondary education.
In secondary education two major educational innovations have been implemented. In 1999 all HAVO and VWO schools introduced set subject combinations and the 'study house' construction, which commences in the fourth course year and requires students to acquire skills and knowledge in a much more independent capacity. In 1999 pre-vocational education and junior general secondary education schools introduced pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO).
Pupils who are unable to obtain a VMBO qualification, even with long-term extra help, can receive practical training, which prepares them for entering the labour market.
In vocational education, courses of study have been adjusted to better suit the labour market. In light of the ever-growing demand for MBO (upper secondary vocational education) and HBO (higher professional education) graduates, an important goal for the coming years is to encourage students to move on to higher secondary school levels and prevent dropouts.
Vocational education, training and adult education
Regional training centres
There are 40 regional training centres in the Netherlands. They provide:
Vocational education in three sectors: Engineering and Technology, Economics and Health & Social Care. Vocational education in the sectors agriculture, natural environment and food technology are provided by agricultural training centres, financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food quality. Vocational education offers participants from the age of 16 a choice of 700 vocational courses, four training levels and two different routes in which courses can be followed. There is a full-time college-based route that includes work placements and there is the part-time work-based route, which combines part-time education with an apprenticeship in a company.
Adult education offers adults courses focusing on social sufficiency and citizenship, and the mastery of Dutch as a second language.
The different sectors are represented by national bodies. National bodies are centres of knowledge and expertise. The employers' and employees' organisations from the sector (in a number of cases together with the vocational education bodies relevant to the sector) form the governing boards of the national bodies. The national bodies are:
the Bve (VET) Council (association of VET-colleges)
the AOC Council (association of agricultural colleges)
PAEPON (platform for private teaching institutions) (only in Dutch)
Colo (association of national bodies for vocational training)
the JongerenOrganisatie Beroepsonderwijs (association of young people in vocational education) (only in Dutch)
VET and the labour market
The regional training centres and the national bodies are responsible for the learning of a profession in practice. The national bodies ensure that approved learning establishments offer sufficient good quality placements. The colleges are required to offer courses to participants and work practice, and are responsible for counselling the participants. They arrange the rights and obligations of all involved in a practice agreement, drawn up between the parties. The work experience is made compulsory in the Adult and Vocational Education Act to guarantee the relevance of the courses to practice, and thus strengthen the ties between education and the labour market.
Higher education comprises higher professional education (HBO) and university education (WO). These types of education are provided by HBO institutions (“hogescholen”) and universities respectively.
Higher professional education
HBO institutions provide theoretical and practical training for occupations for which a higher vocational qualification is either required or useful. Graduates find employment in various fields, including middle and high-ranking jobs in trade and industry, social services, health care and the public sector.
Universities combine academic research and teaching. University education focuses on training in academic disciplines, the independent pursuit of scholarship and the application of scholarly knowledge in the context of a profession and aims to improve understanding of the phenomena studied in the various disciplines and generate new knowledge.
There are thirteen 'regular' universities in the Netherlands, including three technical universities and the Agricultural University in Wageningen, which is financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food quality. Besides these, there are 43 colleges offering 200 different programmes for a variety of professions in a range of social areas.
The distribution of government grants to the universities partly depends on such performance indicators as the numbers of diplomas, first-year students and doctoral degrees. Universities may divide their state aid between 'education' and 'research' as they see fit. Each university bears the cost of its housing and infrastructure.
Institutions for higher professional education (HBO institutions) receive funding from a variety of sources. In addition to government grants, these institutions rely on tuition fees and revenue from external work (primarily contract education). Of the total state contribution, nearly 92% is made available in the form of a lump sum. HBO institutions independently decide on the most effective allocation of these funds to cover personnel, materials and housing costs.
In 2002, the main change in higher education was the implementation of the Bachelor and Master degree system, which is intended to give students greater international mobility. In concert with this shift, the value of study programs must be more easily recognisable, and they will be accredited to indicate quality.