The Netherlands: Educator unrest spreads across the country

published 13 April 2018 updated 24 April 2018

Dutch educators in the southern part of The Netherlands have protested in favour of improved salaries and working conditions following similar activities nationally and regionally.

On 13 April, primary school educators in the south of The Netherlands went on strike for better salaries and a reduced workload. The action took place in Eindhoven and Sittard and meant that nearly all schools were be closed in the provinces of Brabant and Limburg.

This action in the country’s southern region follows several protest actions nationally, and in the country’s north and north-west. It also comes on the heels of the launch of the yearly report of the Dutch Education Inspectorate, “The State of Education”.

The report, issued on 11 April, highlights several crises in Dutch education, including a decline in students’ academic performance. Although The Netherlands is still doing relatively well, academic performance has been steadily declining over the last 20 years.

Cross-cutting demands

According to the education union, Algemene Onderwijsbond(AOb), among the reasons that explain this development are:

·         The growing number of pupils with special needs in regular schools

·         The growing number of societal issues for which a school is asked to find solutions

·         Repeated changes within the system and curriculum

·         The growing number of temporary and flexible contracts for teachers

·         The lack of appropriate funding allocation by autonomous school boards

These issues lead to a growing workload for teachers, many of whom leave the profession, according to the union. In addition, primary school teachers’ salaries have been lagging behind others for many years. A teacher shortage is now a clear danger for the the quality of education.

Tackle issues

“The first step to stop a further decline in the quality of education is to tackle the teacher shortage by substantially raising their salaries and reducing their workload together with the number of flexible contracts,” said AOb President Liesbeth Verheggen.