Schools and education systems vary in every country. The type of schools, the programs covered, the liberties and responsibilities of the students and parents are just some of the ways in which schools in every country vary. As a person who has been to schools in two different countries, I am intrigued with the manner in which countries deal with their education systems.
So what do the Dutch students and their parents need?
I am currently teaching afterschool at elementary schools or basisscholen in the Maastricht area allowing me the opportunity to observe and work within Dutch schools. I would like to compile a list of what I have found interesting.
- Dutch students are encouraged to speak freely
This is probably one of the first comments I heard about school children in the Netherlands. Many people have commented on the freedom in speech allowed and encouraged by Dutch children. Where as in Belgium, schools follow a more traditional and perhaps conservative program and relationship between teachers and students, in the Netherlands students are encouraged to speak their mind. I am sure this doesn’t mean they can go around offending their peers or their teachers, Dutch students do speak out more about what they don’t like, what they find boring, and they are overall more talkative in class. While this is purely based on a handful of personal observations and comments from educators and parents, I think this attitude goes very well with the vrijheid of the overall Dutch culture.
- Dutch parents are very involved and welcomed in the schools
Because of security reasons, schools in the U.S. and Mexico have protocols of when and how parents can access schools while their children are in class. Schools are set up in such a way that a parent can’t freely wonder around. In the Netherlands, the schools are a lot more open and parents are no strangers to the halls. Many of the parents of my students volunteer at the schools on a daily basis and they also like to observe the classes from the windows. While I always welcome parental support, having parents peak into the class is somewhat odd. However, I have noticed that the students are in no way distracted by their parents.
- Parenting and the part-time-work culture
In several academic and non-academic publications I have read, the Netherlands has been described as the culture of part-time work. In a household, one of the parents usually works part-time and this is usually attributed to the needs of the children. While I know this isn’t the case for everyone, the average Dutch family can choose this and it is just great! Mommy and Daddy days are also pretty common, particularly on Wednesdays when children leave school early. While the balance of a career and family is always tricky, it seems the Dutch are very much in the lead in this regard!
- BSO for full-time working parents
While the previous point was about the economical possibility of working part-time, the Netherlands is no stranger to the needs of parents that must or want to work full time. BSO or Buitenschoolse Opvang is an after-school program where students can stay while their parents work. The BSO isn’t always in the same school, but there are options for picking the children up at school to take them to the BSO location. Children can stay until 19:00 and, while the cost of this depends on the income of the parents, the average cost per day per student is €20. In the BSO, children can play sports, work on arts and crafts, and use the computer, however, this is not a school where children will have any type of formal classes.
My last observation is a very simple one. Children in the Netherlands are no different than children elsewhere. While the children in the Netherlands enjoy many things, they are children and have the same worries and joys as children everywhere. They want to play, they want to fit in, they want attention, they like and don’t like school just as much as any kid, and they like to laugh! Even Princes Amalia, future Queen of the Netherlands, who just started middle school riding her bike to school, is just an average student!
What differences have you found between the Dutch school system and that of other countries?