Country information for Netherlands - Teacher education for inclusive education

Pre-service training programmes

In the Netherlands, it takes four years to gain a mainstream teaching qualification. Primary school teachers study in higher education institutions. They are trained to teach all curriculum subjects and choose a specialisation in their third year of study: early childhood (4–8-year-olds) or middle childhood (8–12-year-olds).

Students can enter teacher training colleges (PABO) with a senior general secondary school or pre-university certificate (HAVO/VWO) or a secondary vocational diploma (MBO). Because of concerns about the disappointing results of first-year teacher training students, a compulsory mathematics and language test has been introduced. All students are now required to complete the test at the end of the first year of the teacher training course. Failing the test means they cannot continue with the programme. For students with a HAVO or MBO certificate, additional requirements apply: they must demonstrate their knowledge of geography, history, nature and technology before starting their training.

Another initiative related to primary teacher training is the start of an academic teaching training course. In order to motivate students with academic ambitions to enter the teaching force and raise its academic potential, there have been initiatives to start a teacher training course for primary school teachers at academic level. For example, co‑operating universities and teacher training colleges offer VWO graduates combined teacher training for primary education and educational science or pedagogy courses.

With the introduction of the Education that Fits policy, most teacher training colleges adapted their curricula for different subjects (educational science/pedagogy, didactics, subject matter and internships). Initial teacher education often includes an introduction to teaching learners with special needs. Some teacher training colleges also offer an optional course and/or minor in special educational needs.

Although supplementary training for teachers in special education is optional, most teachers in special education undertake a two-year, part-time training course. The course assumes the students are already working in education and focuses on both theory and practice. There are several specialist fields including visual impairments, behavioural problems, intellectual disability, remedial teaching and peripatetic teaching. Although not obligatory, a growing number of mainstream teachers have a Master’s degree in Special Educational Needs.

For secondary education, there are two forms of teaching qualification:

  • Lower-secondary qualification: this so-called ‘grade two’ qualification qualifies teachers to teach in the first three years of HAVO and VWO and all the years of secondary and (pre-) vocational education (VMBO/MBO).
  • Full qualification: this ‘grade one’ qualification qualifies teachers to teach all levels of secondary education.

The grade two qualification courses are provided at higher education (HBO) institutions and the grade one qualification courses at universities. The HBO courses are available for general subjects, art subjects, technical subjects and agricultural subjects. Students specialise in one subject and the course prepares them to meet the required standards of competence (see below). At university, courses are offered for university graduates with a Master’s degree. Students can take a postgraduate training course or begin while they are still undergraduates. Courses are available for all subjects in the secondary curriculum.

Common framework of teacher competence

The Dutch government has a constitutional duty to provide high-quality education to everybody. The Professions in Education Act (2004) states that educational staff – teachers, assisting staff members, school managers – must not only be qualified, but also competent. For this reason, sets of competences and requirements have been developed for teachers. They are also being developed for assisting staff members and (primary) school managers. School boards are obliged to employ competent staff and subsequently enable them to maintain and further improve their competences. Teacher training colleges use these competences as a guideline for their educational programmes.

There are three versions of competence requirements:

  • for teachers in primary education;
  • for teachers in secondary and vocational education;
  • for teachers in the last two classes of higher general secondary education (HAVO) and the last three classes of pre-university education (VWO).

The differences between the three versions are marginal. In fact, all Dutch teachers are required to have the same basic competences. The framework of competence requirements specifies four professional roles that teachers have:

  • Interpersonal role
  • Pedagogical role
  • Organisational role
  • Expert role in subject matter and teaching methods.

The teacher fulfils these professional roles in four different types of situations, which are characteristic of the teaching profession:

  • Working with learners
  • Working with colleagues
  • Working within the school environment
  • Working with themselves.

The latter refers to teachers’ own personal development. The framework specifies competence requirements for each role and in each situation.

In-service training

Primary and secondary schools receive additional resources for the professionalisation and support of education staff, as part of an agreement between the Minister of Education and employers’ and employees’ associations. The agreement mainly aims to expand the opportunities for further development for teachers and other education staff in schools. The agreement contains arrangements for maintaining competence requirements and for training and professionalisation in relation to the Professions in Education Act and the competence dossier. These arrangements have been further developed in the decentralised collective labour agreements.

Teacher professionalisation is an on-going process. It is supported by a national programme called Teachers' Agenda 2013–2020 (De Lerarenagenda 2013 – 2020). One of the targets is for all teachers to have the skills and competence to adapt their lessons to different learner needs by 2020. To reach that target, teachers can apply for a scholarship (de Lerarenbeurs), which many applicants use to obtain a Master's in Special Educational Needs. School leaders and teachers report that this Master's degree enables teachers to better analyse different learner needs and adapt their teaching accordingly (source: FPIES – Netherlands Country Report, p. 30).


Last updated 27/11/2019


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