About one third of children in the Netherlands attend public schools. These are schools where children of all religions can go and are usually run by the municipality.
The other two thirds of Dutch children attend private schools, or ‘special schools’ as the Dutch call them, where classes are given from a religious point of view (e.g. Jewish, Islamic, Protestant) or pedagogical point of view (e.g. Montessori, Freinet, Jenaplan, Dalton). These are usually run by organisations or foundations.
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.
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.