The Public School Market in the Netherlands

Colin Fraser, Education, Publications


  • Parents in the Netherlands enjoy a nation-wide system of free choice between public or independent schools, with no cachment areas.
  • Non-profit organizations or groups of parents and teachers can organize and manage a school if minimum requirements are met.
  • These freedoms have resulted in a comparatively diverse supply of schools.
  • The central government provides a national curriculum and exams.
  • Teacher salaries and work conditions are regulated through national collective agreements.
  • Independent schools are protected by the constitutional right to freedom of organization, allowing a high degree of managerial autonomy.
  • Around 70% of primary and secondary pupils attend independent schools.
  • The money follows the child. The principle that governs the flow of funds is that of invisible per capita financing.
  • School budgets depend on enrolment and vary according to demand in both public and independent schools.
  • Government covers the full cost of schooling. There is no parental “topping up”, but financial contributions to extra-curricular activities are permitted.
  • Schools with enrolling students from less privileged backgrounds receive more government money.
  • If this model were applied to Manitoba, school boards would be eliminated and the system of passing along costs to local property owners by means of property taxes would cease to exist. Funding would simply follow the student and there would no longer be an administrative middleman to complicate lines of accountability
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