History of Education

A national system of education was introduced in the Netherlands around the year 1800. The Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen Society for the Common Good took advantage of the revolutionary tide in the Batavian Republic to propose a number of educational reforms. The Education law of 1806 encouraged the establishment of primary schools in all municipalities and instated provincial supervision. It also introduced a mandatory curriculum comprising Dutch language, reading, writing, and arithmetics. History, geography, and modern languages such as French, German and English were optional subjects. All newly established schools needed consent from the authorities or would be disbanded as freedom of education was not proclaimed until 1848, with the Dutch constitution of Thorbecke. In addition to primary education, gymnasia (or, Latin schools) and universities constituted higher education. What could be considered secondary education or vocational training was unregulated.

This situation changed in the second half of the nineteenth century in the wake of social and economic modernisation. In 1857, a Lower Education law replaced the 1806 law supplementing the mandatory curriculum with geometry, geography, history, natural sciences, and singing. Modern languages and mathematics remained optional. Drawing and physical education would be added in subsequent reforms. The introduction of the so-called Kinderwetje (literally, "children's little law") by legislator Samuel van Houten in 1874 forbade child labour under the age of 12. An amendment in 1900 led to compulsory education for children aged 6-12 in 1901.

A political struggle during several decades, from about 1848, culminated in the equalization of public financing for religious schools and public schools in 1917. This so-called school struggle (schoolstrijd) was very important for the emancipation of the Roman Catholic part of the country, which is traditionally mainly Protestant.

Secondary education was introduced in 1863. This now comprised the Hogere burgerschool (hbs; "higher commoner's school") and the polytechnic. Classical education was still given in higher education: the gymnasium and universities. This distinction between the secondary and higher based on the type of education rather than the students' age would gradually alter in the twentieth century. After 1917, an hbs-diploma could also give access to a number of courses at universities, while the lyceum, combining hbs and gymnasium, became an increasingly common type of school.

Thus, by the 1960s, a range of school types existed:
Kleuterschool - kindergarten (ages 4-6).

Lagere school - primary education, (ages 6-12), followed by either;
Individueel technisch onderwijs (ito; literally, "individual technical education") - now vmbo - praktijkonderwijs (ages 12 to 16).
Ambachtsschool (vocational training) - comparable with vmbo - gemengde leerweg, but there was more emphasis on thorough technical knowledge (ages 12-16).
(Meer) Uitgebreid lager onderwijs (mulo, later ulo; literally, "(further) extended primary education") - comparable with vmbo - theoretical learning path (ages 12 to 16).
Hogere burgerschool (hbs; literally, "higher commoner's school", mixed education) - comparable with atheneum (ages 12-17).
Middelbare meisjesschool (mms; literally, "middle-level girl's school") - comparable with havo (ages 12-17).
Gymnasium - secondary education, comparable with atheneum with compulsory Greek and Latin added (ages 12 to 18). At the age of 15 one could choose between the alpha profile (gymnasium-α; mostly languages, including compulsory Greek and Latin) or the beta profile (gymnasium-β; mostly natural sciences and mathematics). A student wanting to complete gymnasium-β would have to pass exams in the languages Ancient Greek, Latin, French, German, English, Dutch (all consisting of three separate parts: an oral book report, a written essay, and a written summary), pass the sciences physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics (in mathematics, students were assigned to two of the three sub-fields analytic geometry/algebra, trigonometry, and solid geometry based on a draw), and attend history and geography, which were taught until the final year without examinations.
Lyceum - a combination of gymnasium and hbs, with alpha and beta streams which pupils elected after a two-year (sometimes one-year) bridging period (ages 12-18).

Middelbare and hogere technische school (mts/hts; literally, middle and higher level applied/technical training), similar to polytechnic education.

University - only after completing hbs, mms, gymnasium or hts.

The different forms of secondary education were streamlined in the Wet op het voortgezet onderwijs (literally, "law on secondary education") in 1963 at the initiative of legislator Jo Cals. The law is more widely known as the Mammoetwet (literally, "mammoth act"), a name it got when ARP-MP Anton Bernard Roosjen was reported to have said "Let that mammoth remain in fairyland" because he considered the reforms too extensive. The law was enforced in 1968. It introduced four streams of secondary education, depending on the capabilities of the students (lts/vbo, mavo, havo and vwo) and expanded compulsory education to 9 years. In 1975 this was changed to 10 years.

The law created a system of secondary education on which the current secondary school is based albeit with significant adaptations. Reforms in the late 1990s aimed at introducing information management skills, increasing the pupils' autonomy and personal responsibility, and promoting integration between different subjects. Lts/vbo and mavo were fused into vmbo, while the structure of havo and vwo were changed by the introduction of a three-year basisvorming (primary secondary education; literally, "basic forming"), followed by the tweede fase (upper secondary education; literally, second phase"). The basisvorming standardized subjects for the first three years of secondary education and introduced two new compulsory subjects (technical skills and care skills), while the tweede fase allowed for differentiation through profiles.

The influx and emancipation of workers from Islamic countries led to the introduction of Islamic schools. In 2003, in total 35 Islamic schools were in operation.