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Netherlands

Preprimary & Primary Education


Children often attend day care centers or playgroups up until the age of four. The 1994 Social Welfare Act, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, covers childcare standards and facilities. The 1999-2002 welfare policy called "Towards Social Quality" coordinates childcare with local youth programs and education policy. In 1996, approximately 10,800 children attended day nurseries, approximately 198,600 children participated in established playgroups, and approximately 25,200 children aged four to twelve attended out-of-school centers.


Primary Education: Primary schools in the Netherlands are designed for children from four to twelve years of age. In 1997, there were over seven thousand primary schools in the Netherlands, attended by over 1.6 million children. Roughly one-third of these children attend publicly run schools while two-thirds go to private schools. The aim of primary education is to promote the development of children's emotions, intellect and creativity and the acquisition of adequate social, cultural and physical skills. The curriculum includes: sensory coordination and physical exercise; Dutch; arithmetic and mathematics; English (in the last two years); expressive activities such as language, music, drawing, handicrafts, play and movement; self-reliance such as road safety and healthy living; social sciences such as geography, history, biology, social structures, and political studies; and religious and ideological movements. Attainment targets have been formulated indicating the basic minimum that schools are required by law to teach their pupils in each area of the curriculum. However, schools have considerable freedom in the choice of course books and materials, and they can also add their own emphases to the curriculum.


Special Education: Children in need of special care and attention can attend special schools. Like mainstream schools, these may be either publicly or privately run. In 1997 there was a total of almost one thousand institutions providing special education, including schools for physically disabled children, for the partially hearing and visually impaired, and for children with learning and behavioral difficulties. However, under the "Going to School Together" policy, children with learning and behavioral difficulties are integrated into mainstream schools as much as possible. Children who require special provision because of their disability are given a personal budget, which parents may spend at either a special or a mainstream school.

Improvements in Quality: The Netherlands is undergoing measures to improve the quality of primary education by tailoring instruction to the individual needs and abilities of the students. Developing intermediate attainment targets and teaching guidelines, introducing student monitoring systems, evaluating the quality of textbooks, improving the training and supervision of teachers, and reducing class size are the most important among these goals. Initially, the focus will be on improving the teaching of arithmetic and Dutch and on identifying and resolving problems at the earliest stage possible.

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) is essential for the general improvement in teaching and adaptability to individual student needs. Substantial investment in ICT has already been made and will continue in Dutch schools. The action plan "Investing in Progress" outlines many opportunities to improve education quality through the use of computers and for providing a good educational network between schools with access to the Internet. It supports an integrated approach of funding in-service training for teachers at the same time as funding courseware development and hardware. The goal is to have one computer for every three students.


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceNetherlands - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education