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Citizenship to have key role in Dutch schools: ‘children are not born democratic’

THE NETHERLANDS. All Dutch schools are to be required by law to give lessons in ‘citizenship’ so that children learn the ‘basic values of the democratic rule of law’.

Education minister Arie Slob said on Tuesday that he was introducing draft legislation which will cover all schools, including private religious institutions, although schools will be able to devise their own lessons. ‘Children are not born with a democratic gene,’ Slob told Trouw in an interview. ‘Therefore schools have an important task in educating our children so they know their rights and respect the rights of others.’

For the past 10 years, lessons in citizenship have been included in history and social studies courses but that, says Slob, does not go far enough. ‘Some schools do it perfectly and have citizenship in their dna,’ he said. ‘Others deal with citizenship in one lesson a year.’ School inspectors last year criticised the lack of consistency and says some schools seem unable to deal with subjects such as freedom of expression, homosexuality and anti-semitism.


According to broadcaster NOS, themes such as Liberation day, the Wilhelmus national anthem, the Act of Abjuration (in which many of the provinces of the Netherlands declared independence from Spain in 1581) and the Keti Koti Festival are among the subjects which show the ‘historical development and the meaning of society in the Netherlands’. The draft legislation has now been opened up to consultation. The aim is to have the new subject embedded in the curriculum by the start of the 2019-2020 school year, NOS said. 

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