School success in the Netherlands

This month, the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) is focusing on the Dutch education system. In one post, Jennifer Craw shares statistics that show the Dutch system is one of the top performing education systems worldwide. For example, Dutch 15-year-olds are a full year ahead of their U.S. counterparts in mathematics. In a recent blog post, Marc Tucker points to the country’s powerful math curriculum called Realistic Mathematics.


Tucker shares his reflections on a recent conversation he had with Sander Dekker, the Netherlands’ State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science. In this and another post, written by David Loewenberg, both authors highlight  aspects of the Dutch system that might contribute to the country’s success. According to Loewenberg, the success of the Dutch system can be attributed to the country’s commitment to building a coherent system that:

  1. supports children and families from a very young age;
  2. allocates extra resources for disadvantaged students;
  3. continually strives to improve the quality of its teachers;
  4. maintains a system of school accountability; and
  5. includes a robust system of career and technical education.

Here at IEN, we published a Leading Futures post focusing on the Dutch education system last May. Written by Alma Harris, Michelle Jones, Jan Heijmans and Job Christians, the authors argue that in addition to identifying structural features of successful education systems, it is also important to understand that education systems are complex and often there are multiple reasons for improved outcomes that interact and intersect. In this post, the authors argue that “the Dutch system provides an example of ‘principled educational performance,’ combining a focus on democratic values with an approach to policymaking that relies on both collaboration and autonomy.”

A quick scan of recent education news from the Netherlands found the following articles, which provide additional context. 

Teachers strike could shut Dutch primary schools for days

Dutch Members of Parliament Want to Mandate ‘Inclusiveness’ Education

Dutch Kids Aren’t Stressed Out: What Americans Can Learn From How the Netherlands Raises Children

PISA study: Finnish youth – especially boys – content with life

Working together is a key part of the Dutch psyche –

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