The Dutch Inspectorate of Education
The Dutch Inspectorate of Education is responsible for the inspection and review of schools and educational institutions:
- assessing the quality of education offered in schools
- reporting publicly on the quality of individual institutions
- reporting publicly on the educational system as a whole
- encouraging schools to maintain and improve the education they offer
- providing information for policy development
- supplying reliable information on education
Since 2007 the Dutch Inspectorate of Education has carried out risk-based
inspections of schools, assessing potential problems that could affect the
quality of education. This system reduces the burden felt by schools and makes
inspections more effective. Schools delivering a good education (no risks
detected) and good results do not require inspection, allowing the Inspectorate
to focus on the rapid improvement of schools that supply a poorer education
(risks detected) and get unsatisfactory results.
More information: Risk-based Inspection as of 2009
The Inspectorate works in a risk-oriented manner with a several assessment frameworks. These contain the standards and indicators for assessing the quality of the school.
- Supervision framework primary and secondary education (PDF, 229kB)
- Supervision framework vocational and adult education (PDF, 322kB) – annexe (PDF, 154kB)
There are also quality standards and indicators for:
- schools in Dutch Caribbean;
- active citizenship and social integration;
- integrated supervision of youth affairs.
The annual report published by the Inspectorate of Education is 'The State of Education in the Netherlands'. English summary reports are available for 2010/2011, 2009/2010, 2008/2009, 2006/2007, 2005/2006 and 2004/2005.
The Dutch Education System
Most children in the Netherlands attend a school funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Schools in this sector can be publicly or privately run. The non-government funded sector includes a small number of primary and secondary schools and a larger number of institutions for vocational education and adult learning.
Public and Private Schools
Freedom of education is a key feature of the Dutch education system. Guaranteed under article 23 of the constitution it gives freedom to:
- found schools (freedom of establishment)
- organise the teaching in schools (freedom of organisation of teaching)
- determine the principles on which schools are based (freedom of conviction)
The right to found schools that provide teaching based on religious, ideological or educational beliefs has resulted in publicly and privately run schools that are funded by the state.
Public schools are open to all children regardless of religion or world view and are generally subject to public law. They provide education on behalf of the state and are governed by the municipal council (or a governing committee), a public legal entity or a foundation set up by the council.
Privately run schools can refuse admittance to pupils whose parents do not subscribe to the belief or ideology of the school. They are subject to private law and can be government funded, even though they have not been founded by the state. Private schools are governed by the board of the founding association. Teaching is based on religious or ideological beliefs and this category includes Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and anthroposophic schools.
Schools that base teaching on specific educational ideas, such as the Montessori, Dalton, Freinet or the Jena Plan method may be publicly or privately run.
Freedom to organise teaching means that private schools can decide what they teach and how. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science sets quality standards that apply to both public and private education prescribing:
- subjects to be studied
- attainment targets or examination requirements
- content of national examinations
- number of teaching periods per year
- required teaching qualifications
The ministry also requires parents and pupils to be given a say in school matters and prescribes certain planning and reporting obligations.
Publicly and privately run schools are financed in the same way by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and evaluated in the same way by the Inspectorate.
Non-Government Funded Schools
The non-government funded sector includes three types of schools:
- Schools that provide secondary education preparing for final exams, such as the Luzac Colleges. They cater for students that have failed their final exams and are preparing to re-sit. The inspectoral arrangements in this sector are similar to those in the government-funded sector.
- Schools that offer a foreign educational programme like the British Schools, or an international programme like the international baccalaureate. These schools are generally set up for non-Dutch students. The Inspectorate plays a limited role in this sector.
- Schools that are similar to government-funded schools in the way they teach and in the tasks and responsibilities of teachers. The design of the education offered means they are not eligible for government funding. The Inspectorate visits these institutions regularly. It does not evaluate the educational process of the primary and secondary schools, but checks are performed by specially trained inspectors to make sure the schools comply with legal obligations, such as the minimum amount of teaching time and attainment targets. These checks only apply to schools that provide education to pupils of statutory school age. Approximately 1% of all primary and secondary schools are non-government funded. There are no private schools in special education.
The vocational and adult education sector comprises many non-government funded schools, most providing work-related courses. The Inspectorate evaluates the quality of these schools and inspectoral arrangements are the same as for the government funded sector. There are some non-government funded higher education schools. The Inspectorate has few responsibilities in this sector.
Dutch Schools Abroad
There are about 300 locations providing Dutch education abroad. The Inspectorate is responsible for evaluating the quality of education provided by these schools. Dutch schools abroad are inspected in a similar way to schools in the Netherlands.
- Overview of the Netherlands Education System in Eurypedia
- Key figures 2007 – 2011 OCW (Key figures of the Netherlands’ Education System from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science) (PDF, 10MB)
- Dutch national qualifications framework (NQF) higher education – 2010 (PDF, 311kB)
Autonomy of Dutch Schools
Schools in the Netherlands govern with a high level of autonomy, working within the framework set by central government (attainment targets, examination requirements). Schools are fully responsible for the organisation of teaching and learning, personnel and materials. The annual budget is received as block grant funding. Schools are free to decide how the budget is spent and are responsible for the quality of education provided. The Inspectorate monitors a school’s capacity to assure and improve quality. If the school proves capable of monitoring and improving its own quality, the Inspectorate keeps its distance.
For more corporate information about the international activities of the Netherlands’ Inspectorate of Education please contact the department of International Affairs by e-mail. Look for more information about Inspectorates in Europe at: The Standing International Conference of Inspectorates (SICI). More information about the Dutch Government at government.nl.