VI. From good to excellent education

The standard of education and research in the Netherlands is already high, but we are keen to do even better and to become one of the world’s top five in the field. The calibre of education professionals in our classrooms and lecture halls is a decisive factor here. Quality of teaching stands or falls with the way in which we recruit and train teachers, heads of school and managers who can encourage and reward staff, and impose disciplinary measures if necessary. These are the men and women we need and want to invest in.

Education can get the best out of children and students by challenging those with talent and narrowing the gap for those who lag behind — whether they are from immigrant or low-income families or have special educational needs. Education is the one area we have exempted from cutbacks at the present time of crisis. Instead, we have opted for extra investment because we consider good education to be extremely important.

•    We intend to make agreements with the education world about:
    improving the quality of teachers and school leaders;
    better supervision of new teachers and in-service training for serving teachers and heads of schools;
    making human resources policy in this sector more professional, with the help of the Education Inspectorate;
    reducing the number of unqualified teachers.
The designations used by the Education Inspectorate in assessing schools will be expanded to include ‘good’ and ‘excellent’. Under this coalition agreement, schools that perform well will have fewer accountability obligations than underperforming or failing schools. All schools will be required to publish their results and the resources they use to achieve them. We will also make agreements on:
    using precious classroom time as effectively as possible;
    updating the statutory minimum number of teaching hours;
    phasing out the scheme to promote employment among older people (BAPO) in order to create scope for more up-to-date conditions of employment;
    speeding up the introduction of remuneration codes;
    making over €340 million available for education spending from 2017, providing we are successful in updating conditions of employment.
•    The requirements for teacher training colleges will be tightened up. They will have to make a greater proportion of their training and instruction practice-based.
•    The competence requirements for enrolment in the Register of Teachers and the in-service training obligation for teaching professionals will be enshrined in law as from the beginning of 2017.
•    It will become easier to deal with underperforming teachers once the legal status of public servants is brought into line with that of other workers.
•    Funds for unemployment and reintegration and for supply work will be modernised in the interests of good employment practice.
•    There will be an intensive screening operation to get rid of red tape and weed out unnecessary accountability procedures and requirements in the education sector.
•    We will introduce norms to ensure that the focus in education is more about people and less about overheads. Funding and mergers will also have to be in keeping with these norms.
•    In areas where the school-age population is declining, all forms of cooperation must be facilitated. Religious denomination, educational ethos or compulsory appraisal of merger plans may not be a barrier to achieving this.
•    Learning support (LWOO) and practical training (PRO) will be made more efficient and will be incorporated into the budgeted system for consortia that provide appropriate education for pupils with special needs.
•    Baby and toddler clinics will assess language development of children in certain target populations and if necessary refer them to early childhood education programmes. Additional funds will be made available to this end.
•    We will continue to pursue our action plan to improve skills acquisition in secondary vocational education (MBO), within a viable time frame. This will mean shortening and intensifying training courses, and substantially simplifying the qualification structure.
•    The number of courses and options in secondary vocational education will be reduced in the interests of boosting quality. In principle, courses with an insufficient number of students will be phased out.
•    €250 million will be earmarked for intensifying secondary vocational education in tandem with performance goals agreed with institutions. Busy timetables, challenging courses, an adequate focus on basic language and numeracy skills and a strong practical emphasis should help to boost quality.
•    The prolonged study surcharge for students will be abolished.
•    A student loan system will replace the basic grant at bachelor’s and master’s degree levels in higher professional and university education. This will apply to new students starting their studies in September 2014. The supplementary grant will be retained in order to keep higher education accessible.
•    In 2015, the public transport pass entitling students to free transport will be replaced by a discount card, which will also be available to students in secondary vocational education. The student loan system will cover travel expenses (up to a certain maximum amount).
•    The revenue generated by student loan financing measures will be invested in education and research.
•    €20 million will be available to compensate for the unintended effects of giving individual institutions a free hand in setting the level of tuition fees for students enrolled on a second course.
•    In secondary education, school textbooks will no longer be provided free of charge. However, the current system in which textbook procurement is done by schools will remain unchanged. Part of the savings made will be reinvested in income support. On balance, the measure will generate €185 million.
•    An extra €150 million will be available for strengthening fundamental research, of which €50 million will result from reprioritisation.
•    In line with the Van Haersma Buma motion, €256 million will be transferred from the Municipalities Fund to schools to cover expenditure on school buildings.
•    We will continue to pursue our policy of funding education on the basis of quality.
•    Admission to higher education will be based on a qualifying certificate. Selection on the basis of entry requirements will continue to be allowed for university colleges, study programmes where the number of applicants exceeds the numbers of available places and courses with special admission requirements (e.g. in the visual and performing arts).
•    We will speed up the overhaul of governance, management and remuneration arrangements in higher education institutions, in consultation with the sector.

Gender equality and equal treatment

Every person should be able to make something of their life, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, origin, religion or belief, or any disability they may have. Achieving this requires input from us all – individuals, social partners, government bodies, belief-based groups, and ethnic communities. Government itself must set a good example. Accordingly, the following measures will be adopted.
•    People who refuse to officiate at same-sex marriage or civil partnership ceremonies will not be appointed as registrars. The Equal Treatment Act is being amended in line with the European model. The ‘sole grounds’ formulation will be dropped from the Act. Schools may not dismiss gay teachers, or refuse admission to or expel gay pupils on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Pupils will be taught about sexual diversity as part of the curriculum. The Lesbian Co-Parents Bill will enter into force as soon as possible. This will improve the legal position of lesbian parents and their children.
•    Combating homophobic violence will continue to be a priority for the police and Public Prosecution Service.
•    The sterilisation requirement for changing one’s sex registration will be dropped from the Civil Code.
•    The government will pursue active efforts to remove existing wage inequality between men and women doing the same work.
•    The government will combat all forms of oppression of women. Violence in dependency situations is unacceptable and will be investigated and punished. This applies to domestic violence and child abuse, female genital mutilation (FGM), honour killings, forced prostitution and human trafficking.
•    We will tighten up measures to prevent sham marriages. Forced marriage will be made a criminal offence. We will also seek to curb repeated marriage migration.
•    The Netherlands will ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on condition that it is in a position to fulfil the obligations that derive from it.

Art and culture

Our society attaches great value to art and culture – two areas in which the Netherlands has a fine reputation to uphold. Dutch industrial and fashion designers, DJs and architects have the world at their feet. Visual arts, dance, opera and musicals draw large audiences. Organisations and artists are emerging as cultural entrepreneurs, finding new audiences and tapping new sources of funding. The government’s policy is primarily geared to promoting a strong basic infrastructure, supporting the development of upcoming artists and boosting the international reputation of those at the forefront of the arts.

•    Culture must remain accessible. The planned increase in value added tax for performing and visual arts is to be scrapped.
•    We will support and encourage cultural entrepreneurship and innovative forms of financing.
•    The Youth Cultural Passport (CJP) will continue as a facility for young people. Cultural organisations will focus their educational activities on this target group.
•    We will encourage the development of talent through funds for the performing arts and cultural education.
•    Government-funded cultural institutions must comply with the Cultural Diversity Code.
•    The education and culture sectors will jointly deliver cultural education activities for primary and secondary education.

Media

The central objective of the government’s policy is to ensure independent, varied and high-quality programming, accessible to all strata of society. Existing policy will be amended on a number of points.
•    Regional broadcasting organisations will no longer be funded by the provincial authorities but by central government. The budget will be transferred from the Provinces Fund to the budget for media. Savings will be made by working together and dovetailing tasks with those of national public broadcasting.
•    The recently proposed media fund will be reconsidered. The Press Promotion Fund will remain unaffected.
•    In line with the recent decision, broadcasting companies based on a religious or ideological ethos (known as ‘article 2.42 broadcasting companies’) will become part of larger broadcasting organisations, enabling savings to be made.
•    Further cutbacks must be made within the public service broadcasting system. These could be achieved by organisations generating more own income and avoiding unnecessary expenditure on acquiring subscribers. Recent plans to link budget allocation to the number of members subscribing to broadcasting companies should be abandoned. Instead, there should be a new system of A and B licences. New broadcasting organisations will continue to be able to join the system.