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Netherlands - General Information
The organization, structure and management of the education system
The Netherlands has no formal pre-primary educational provision. From the age of four onwards, children attend primary school. Although the mandatory school age is 5, almost all children (98%) begin school at age four. For children under the age of four there is no formal educational provision, but there are various childcare facilities available outside the education system.
The following organised facilities are available:
Primary education in the Netherlands comprises general primary education, special primary education and (secondary) special education. The primary education programme consists of eight years for education, from the age of four until the age of twelve. Compulsory education starts at the age of five, but children can attend primary school from the age of four. In the school year, 2007/2008 there are 7909 primary schools for 1,663,500 pupils. These include public-authority and denominational schools. Besides these, there is a small number of private schools not financed by the government. Public authority schools are open to all children, no matter what their denomination or philosophy of life may be. Public authority schools do not work on the basis of a denomination or philosophy of life. These schools are mostly run by the local authorities, a school board, a foundation or by a legal person appointed by the city council. About one third of all children go to public authority schools. Denominational schools are run as an association, of which parents can become members, or as a foundation. There are all sorts of denominational schools. Most of these schools are Roman Catholic or Protestant. In addition, there are Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and humanistic schools, and so called 'free schools' that base their education on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. And, there are schools that organise their education according to certain pedagogical principles, such as Montessori, Jenaplan, Dalton and Freinet schools (these can be either public-authority or denominational schools). There is also non-denominational private education, which does not depart from a special philosophy of life. About two thirds of all children go to denominational schools.
For pupils who require specialized care and support, there is special (primary) education and secondary special education. In 1998, schools for children with learning and behavioural difficulties (lom) and children with moderate learning difficulties (mlk) were converted to schools for special primary education (SBAO). These schools fall under the legislation of primary education.
On average, children are 12 years of age when they enter secondary education. In the school year 2007/2008 there are 645 secondary schools that cater for 941,900 pupils. Secondary education encompasses schools providing pre-university education (vwo), general secondary education (havo), pre-vocational secondary education (vmbo) and practical training (pro). Vmbo comprises four learning pathways:
Vmbo students can receive additional support through learning support programmes (lwoo). After vmbo, at an average age of 18, students may transfer to vocational education (mbo).
Those who have completed the theoretical programme can also choose to transfer to havo. havo is intended as preparation for higher professional education (hbo). vwo is intended to prepare students for research-oriented education (wo). In practice, however, vwo graduates also transfer to hbo. The school types differ in terms of the duration of their programmes: vmbo takes 4 years, havo 5 years and vwo 6 years.
Secondary schools have completed the implementation of two major educational innovations: the innovation of upper secondary education and the introduction of vmbo.
Vocational education (mbo)
Since 1 January 1998 all adult and vocational education institutions have been incorporated in regional training centres (ROCs). mbo comprises a vocational training programme (BOL) and a block or day release programme (BBL). There are four qualification levels:
The programmes last a maximum of 4 years.
Higher education comprises higher professional education (hbo) and university education. These types of education are provided by hbo institutions and universities respectively. As of 2008, there are 41 hbo institutions and 13 universities. There is also one establishment providing open higher distance education, the Open University of the Netherlands. In addition there are number of approved private institutions and institutes for international education. The private institutions include several theological colleges, the University for Humanist Studies and Nijenrode University (business education). The international education colleges include the Institute of Social Science (ISS), International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), Institute for Urban Housing and Development Studies (IHS), and the Institute for Water Education (IHE).
Higher education in the Netherlands is composed of higher professional education (hbo) and research-oriented education (wo). Since 1993, the universities of applied sciences or hbo institutions and research universities have been governed by the same legislation: the Higher Education and Research Act (WHW). This Act permits the institutions a large measure of freedom in the way they organize their teaching and other matters to meet changing demands. The universities of applied sciences are responsible for the programming
and quality of the courses they provide. Quality control is exercised by the institutions themselves and by external experts. With effect from 1 September 2003, the Education Inspectorateís external quality assurance dossier has been transferred to the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). The NVAO took over two tasks of the Education Inspectorate: a) the follow-up to old style reviews previously approved by the Education Inspectorate, the so-called evaluation of administrative processing, and b) the follow-up to reviews conducted from 2003 on.
In order to be able to link up with international developments, the Bachelorís - Masterís degree structure was introduced in the 2002/03 academic year. The Bachelor programs comprise of 180 ECTS , which amounts to three years of full-time study. The Masters programs take 1 year (60 ECTS) to 2 years (120 ECTS).
Higher professional education is extremely diverse: courses lead to some 250 different qualifications for a wide range of occupations in various areas of society. There are both broad and specialist courses. There are large hbo institutions offering a wide variety of courses in many different sectors and medium-sized and small colleges offering a small assortment in one sector only. Administrative mergers have reduced the number of hbo institutions from almost 350 in the mid-1980s to 41 in 2007. Programmes are divided into seven sectors: Education, Engineering & Technology, Healthcare, Economics, Behaviour & Society, Language & Culture, and Agriculture & the Natural Environment. The last sector falls under the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV).
Since 1998, schools for children with learning and behavioural difficulties (lom) and children with moderate learning difficulties (mlk) were converted to special primary schools (SBAO). These schools now fall under the legislation of primary education. This is related to the introduction of the law on the Expertise Centres in 1998. This law was formally effectuated in 2003. As a result of this law regional expertise centres (RECs) have been set up, i.e., consortiums of special schools and secondary special schools within a district. These consortiums are divided into four clusters:
Within secondary special schools, pupils can follow the curriculum for practical training, vmbo, havo or vwo.
In 2003 the financing mechanism (funding special schools on the basis of the number of children that are placed) has been changed in favour of linking financing of special services to the student involved, regardless of the type of schooling. If a student meets the criteria for this so-called 'pupil-bound budget', parents and pupils can choose a school, special or mainstream, and take part in decision making on the best way to use the funds in order to meet the student's special needs. Peripatetic supervision entails the provision of extra help to enable pupils with special educational needs to attend a mainstream school. The help is provided by teachers from special schools. In the Netherlands, there is a growing continuum between separated education (special schools) and full inclusive schools. There are many mainstream schools with pupils with special educational needs in regular classes and mainstream schools with a special group for children with special needs within the school. Some mainstream school specialize in a particular target group and some mainstream schools collaborate intensively with special schools.