The Dutch educational system
Any citizen has the right to found schools and to provide teaching based on religious, ideological or educational beliefs (article 23 of the constitution). One of the key features of the Dutch education system is freedom of education, i.e. the freedom to found schools (freedom of establishment of schools), to organize teaching in schools (freedom of organization of teaching) and to determine the principles on which they are based (freedom of conviction). The constitution guarantees equal public funding for both private and public schools. All schools are governed by private non-profit governing bodies, state-funded and thus subject to public law. All governing bodies and schools appoint their own principals and teachers. Guaranteed in the constitution is also the freedom to choose teaching material as e.g. textbooks.
Public schools are open to all children regardless of religion or conviction and are generally subject to public law. They are governed by private bodies.
Private funded schools
The education in private schools is founded on religious or ideological beliefs. These include for example Catholic, Protestant, Judaism, Muslim, Hindustani and anthroposophist beliefs and views. Private schools are entitled to refuse to admit pupils whose parents do not respect the belief or ideology on which the school’s teaching is based.
Some private schools base their teaching on specific educational ideas, such as the Montessori, Dalton, Freinet or Jenaplan method. There are also combinations, e.g. Protestant or Catholic schools with the Jenaplan method.
Non funded private schools
Non funded private schools do not receive state funding and are usually funded by parents. They do have to comply to certain public laws, for pupils to receive fulltime education, but these differ from state funded schools.
Some schools base their teaching on specific educational ideas, such as the Montessori, Dalton, Freinet or Jenaplan method. They may be either publicly or privately governed. There are also combinations, e.g. Protestant or Catholic schools with the Jenaplan method.
What is taught and how
‘Freedom to organise teaching’ means that both public and private schools are free to determine – within legal boundaries - what is being taught and how. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science however, does set quality standards which apply to both public and government-funded private education. These standards prescribe the subjects to be studied, the attainment targets or examination syllabuses and the content of national examinations, the number of teaching periods per year, the qualifications which teachers are required to have, giving parents and pupils a say in school matters, planning and reporting obligations and so on.
There is a continuous formalized debate between the Ministry and the national associations of governing bodies and/or teachers about details in this balance of freedom and regulations.