Public-authority and private schools

Private schools may have a religious or ideological character, unlike publicly run schools. Either type of school may be based on a specific educational ethos. Both privately and publicly run schools are eligible for government funding, provided they meet statutory requirements on pupil numbers and classroom hours, among other things.

Equal funding for public-authority and private schools

The Dutch education system is unique in the world. Under article 23 of the Constitution, the state provides equal funding for both public-authority and private schools. To be eligible for government funding, schools must meet the statutory requirements on minimum pupil numbers and classroom hours, among other things.

Public-authority schools

Public-authority schools are open to all pupils and teachers. Their teaching is not based on a particular religion or belief. Publicly run schools are set up by the local authorities.

Under article 23 of the Constitution, local authorities must ensure there are sufficient publicly run schools in their municipality. If there are not enough schools locally, they are obliged to provide access to public schools, for instance by arranging a bus service to a public-authority school elsewhere.

Government authorities (usually the municipality) are responsible for the budget and educational quality of public-authority schools. Municipalities are also tasked with supervision.

Private schools

Private schools are established and run by private individuals, usually parents. The usual procedure is to set up a foundation with the intention of establishing a school based on religious or ideological principles, such as a Protestant or Muslim school. Private schools of this kind may use teaching materials that underpin their foundational principles.

Schools based on religious or ideological principles

Most of the schools in this category are faith-based schools, including:

  • Protestant;
  • Roman Catholic;
  • Hindu;
  • Muslim;
  • Jewish.

Faith-based criteria at denominational private schools

A private school based on religious or ideological principles may require its teaching staff and pupils to subscribe to the beliefs of that denomination or ideology. For instance, a Protestant school may insist that its staff are committed Protestants. And a Roman Catholic school may forbid pupils to wear Islamic headscarves.

However, a school in this category may only impose these rules if they are necessary to fulfil its principles. The requirements may not be discriminatory and the school must apply its policy consistently.

A publicly run school may not impose any requirements relating to faith or ideology.

Schools no longer able to turn away gay teachers and pupils

Private schools do not have the right to dismiss teachers because they are gay, nor may they refuse to take on pupils or staff on these grounds. Any member of staff who feels discriminated against can take their case to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights.

Schools with a specific educational ethos

Schools may be based on a specific educational ethos, such as Montessori, Dalton, Freinet, Jena Plan or Steiner schools. They are also known as private non-denominational schools ('algemeen bijzondere scholen') because their principles are not religious or ideological. Public-authority schools may also be based on a specific educational ethos.

Transport to and from school

Municipal authorities may arrange transport for pupils attending a private school outside the area where they live. Parents may also receive partial reimbursement from the municipality of their children’s travel costs.

Education Inspectorate

Every school bears primary responsibility for the quality of its teaching. The Education Inspectorate is responsible for monitoring the quality of education at publicly run and private schools. The Education Inspectorate does not intervene in school matters relating to religion or ideology.