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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.6 Social inclusion through education and training

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Educational support
  2. Social cohesion and equal opportunities

Educational support

General approach for equal opportunities in education

The Equal Opportunities Alliance (Gelijke Kansen Alliantie) (only in Dutch), an initiative of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, was launched by both Minister Bussemaker and Secretary of State Dekker in October 2016 in a letter to the Lower House of Parliament. Together with stakeholders within and outside the educational field, the Alliance promotes equal opportunities in education for all children. The Alliance is a partnership between teachers, parents, schools, employers and civil society. Main targets are smoother transitions between school types, learning from each other, awareness raising, and space to experiment.

The corresponding Investing in equal opportunities (Investeren in gelijke kansen) programme (2018) aims to give children of low skilled parents the same opportunities as their peers with higher educated parents. The national government collaborates with municipalities on joint multi-year Equal Opportunities agendas that comprise agreements about analysing data, conducting research and executing experiments and local interventions. This is performed in cooperation with schools and social organisations. The agendas are attuned to the local situation and problems in a municipality. School leaders, team leaders and teachers have the possibility to participate in communities around a specific theme in which knowledge is developed and shared. Part of the programme too is a toolkit, being offered to municipalities, schools, other educational institutes and social organisations which enables them to enhance equal opportunities.


Equal opportunities as part of the National Programme Education 

The Equal Opportunities Alliance (Gelijke Kansen Alliantie) was given an active role in the National Programme Education (Nationaal Programma Onderwijs) that was launched on 17th February 2021. This €8.5 billion support programme for primary, secondary, secondary vocational and higher education is aimed at the recovery and development of education, catching up on study delays and the support of pupils and students who are struggling due to the corona crisis and the measures taken by Cabinet to reduce the spread of the virus (e.g. school closures and online education). As part of the National Programme Education, the Equal Opportunities Alliance expands its activities to support municipalities. For example, the alliance will expand the use of expert pools and regional coordinators who can advise municipalities and help them design and implement measures. The alliance will also expand the number of participating municipalities from the current 50 or so to approximately 100 municipalities over time. Existing networks and structures between municipalities, education and other partners will be utilised as much as possible and connected to the local context. 


Transitions between school levels

The Act on Equal Chances on Transition to HAVO and VWO (Wet gelijke kans op doorstroom naar havo en vwo) (2020) gives pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) and senior general secondary education (HAVO) pupils, who have obtained their diploma and meet certain demands, the right to continue secondary education at a higher level at the school of their choice. However, transitions between school levels provide a major bottleneck. Parents with a lower education run a risk of making further education choices for their children that do not do justice to their children’s talents. These parents have little or no experience and insufficient knowledge of the possibilities of the Dutch education system. That is why the ministry decided to invest in so-called Switch classes (Schakelklassen) (only in Dutch). In the transition between primary and secondary education it concerns children who do not get stimulated at home or have language or learning disadvantages. In pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) pupils may participate in a so-called Switch programme (Schakelprogramma) where they prepare themselves for the first year of senior general secondary education (HAVO) or secondary vocational education (MBO). Universities of applied sciences (HBO) offer transition programmes to secondary vocational education students, for example a three month programme (only in Dutch) for future technical students at Windesheim. (See for an explanation about Dutch school types paragraph 6.1.2). 




Evidence of various studies, among others of the Inspectorate of Education (Inspectie van het Onderwijs), the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy WRR (Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid WRR), the Netherlands Institute for Social Research SCP (Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau SCP) and OECD (OESO), shows that children with equal talents do not have equal opportunities in education. Their opportunities are partly determined by the level of education of their parents and thesupport they can provide for their children. Instead of decreasing,  the differences sometimes can grow when children go to school.


Support for low-skilled parents 

An amount of € 1.3 million is assigned to the programme ‘Count me in with language’ (Tel mee met taal, 2022) (only in Dutch). Parents with limited language skills will be trained, coached and supported in parenting. 


Students as role model

On 6 July 2017 former Minister Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science launched the Students-4-Students campaign (only in Dutch). Students in higher education are coaches or role models matched to students in secondary vocational education (MBO) or to students who just started higher education. Their aims are to achieve a better flow and less dropout in and towards higher education. A yearly budget of € 1 million is available for this campaign. The project runs from 2017 to 2022. 

Social cohesion and equal opportunities


Knowledge centre 

The Knowledge Centre Equal Opportunities, Diversity and Inclusion in secondary vocational education (Kennispunt MBO Gelijke Kansen, Diversiteit en Inclusie) is an (online) platform of the Dutch VET Council (MBO Raad) that started in October 2020. It offers information, advice, experience and practical examples about equal opportunities, diversity and inclusion to all educational professionals and schools in secondary vocational education. Eight VET-schools receive extra support in addressing specific issues.  


Internship discrimination 

10 percent of the students looking for an internship experience discrimination, according to research executed by The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau) in 2020. For young people with a (non-western) migration background it takes more effort to find an internship and their job applications are rejected more often compared to students without a migration background. Because internship discrimination may play a role, in recent years the Ministries of Social Affairs and Employment (Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid) and Education, Culture and Science have undertaken a variety of actions against internship discrimination. Among other things, research to effective interventions against internship discrimination, an investigation of the differences in chances on the labour market for higher education students with and without a migration background, the implementation of a hotline and a reporting app, a campaign and training for companies, schools and secondary vocational students in the LOB/Equal Opportunities (LOB/Gelijke Kansen) project.