Domestic report: The Netherlands

April 2018

The first Waldorf school was founded in 1923 in The Hague. Amsterdam and Zeist followed in 1933. In the 1970s there was a strong growth in the number of Waldorf schools across the country. The schools were relatively free to organize their education.

In 1985, the Dutch government merged kindergartens and primary schools into one system for primary education. In 2000, a radical change in the law moved Class 7 to secondary education and the schools had to meet core targets and final examinations. That had a big influence on the educational content. Within the Dutch Waldorf movement, the changes have been valued in varying degrees. Some saw it as ‘selling out’, others pointed out that we could now demonstrate the distinctive value of our education within the rules that apply to all Dutch schools.

The structure of the education system

Kindergarten and grade 1 to 6 form primary education. Class 7 to 12 are secondary education. Most schools in the Netherlands are part of a larger school board. There are five Waldorf boards for primary education (each governs between 3 and 17 schools) and several independent Waldorf primary schools. And there are four Waldorf boards for secondary education (2 to 3 schools). Two large secondary schools and eleven new secondary schools (classes 7-9) are part of regular schools. Primary and secondary education on one site is non-existent.

Key data on Dutch Waldorf schools

Currently, there are more than 27,000 pupils. Some 16,000 in in 80 primary schools/kindergartens and 2 small schools for children with special needs; and 11,000 pupils in 13 secondary schools and 11 new Waldorf departments within regular schools. The schools are quite evenly distributed across the country. In the past ten years, the number of pupils has grown by 33% (22% for primary schools and 57% for secondary schools). New primary schools are founded and more and more parent-guided initiatives develop in secondary education.

School funding 

Waldorf schools are fully funded by the government. School fees are (legally) voluntary and amount to 200-500 euros per pupil per year.

Examinations 

The government set requirements for education in the form of core objectives and national examinations. The government thus determines what children learn but how they learn is largely the choice of the schools. Since 2006 students take their exams in class 10, class 11 or class 12. That means that part of the students leaves the school before class 12.

Dutch Association of Waldorf Schools

The Dutch Association of Waldorf Schools is funded by Waldorf schools in the Netherlands, each contributing 13 euros per pupil on a yearly basis. Its tasks are:

  • Representing Waldorf education to all parties outside of the Dutch Waldorf movement, specifically representational and lobby activities towards the Dutch government;
  • Bringing Dutch Waldorf schools together, connecting schools on themes such as curricular development and stimulating meetings between (groups of) partners inside the Waldorf movement;
  • Advancing the quality and growth of Waldorf schools and Waldorf education;
  • Translating governmental policies on education to the interests of Waldorf schools.

Teacher training

The Netherlands has a (primary) teacher training, an eurythmy training and a training for music teacher within the University of Applied Sciences in Leiden. Leiden University has a research group Value(s) of Waldorf education, for a large part funded by the schools and now in its fourth year. Teachers in secondary education are required to possess a regular teacher training certificate. They attend in-school Waldorf training. In august 2017, secondary schools in collaboration with Leiden University established a one-year postgraduate training in Waldorf pedagogy and didactics. We also offer a training course in Phenomenology.

Advocacy

The Dutch Association of Waldorf Schools maintains good relations with the Dutch government. It is able to succesfully represent Waldorf education and lobby for its position in the Dutch school system.

Legal status and recognition 

The Constitution of the Netherlands guarantees the freedom to found schools, to determine the educational principles and teaching methods and equal public funding for both private and public schools. Schools that comply with the minimum standards described in educational laws and regulations are entitled to full financial and faciliatory support from the government. The Inspectorate of Education regularly inspects and reviews all schools in the country, and has the authority to give instructions and directions to a school if it declares the overall quality of a school’s education insufficient.

Recent developments

The Inspectorate recently presented all schools in the Netherlands with more room to promote their specific qualities during school inspections. For Waldorf schools, this means the opportunity of being reviewed on the specific merits of Waldorf education (instead of being reviewed solely on general, national standards).

For 2018, the Dutch Association of Waldorf Schools puts special emphasis on 3 themes:

Growth. This includes supporting initiatives for new Waldorf schools and expansion of existing schools, regular contact with new schools to ensure or develop their educational quality and the need for an increase in the number of Waldorf teachers;

Educational quality. Firstly, the Dutch Association of Waldorf Schools facilitates Waldorf schools in the preparation for the Inspectorate’s new review standards. A second ambition for 2018 is stimulating the further professionalization of Waldorf schools and making educational renewal visible, in cooperation with teachers, principals and governing bodies;

Discussing career perspectives in Waldorf schools with those concerned (teachers, principals, governing bodies…) and striving to create a unified view on career opportunities, characteristics of Waldorf educators and a qualifications framework for teacher in Waldorf schools.

Frans Ebskamp, Vereniging van vrijescholen, Diederichslaan 25, 3971 PA Driebergen, +31 343-536060
vereniging(at)vrijescholen.nl

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