Netherlands: Education for democratic citizenship in Dutch schools: A bumpy road




citizenship education, education policy, primary education, secondary education, tertiary vocational education, the Netherlands



  • Constitutional freedom of education affects democratic citizenship education policy.
  • Citizenship education legislation in 2006 and 2007 placed little demands on schools.
  • Legislation introduced in 2021 has further specified what is expected from schools.
  • Studies of citizenship education in practice are largely critical of the extent to which schools teach about, through and for democracy.

Purpose: This paper discusses developments in citizenship education policy and practice in the Netherlands, and outlines key challenges as faced by the different stakeholders involved.

Design/methodology/approach: Our discussion is based on existing research and policy documents in the Netherlands. The authors, from three Dutch universities, are experts in the field of research on citizenship education.

Findings: Promoting citizenship education in primary, secondary and vocational tertiary education in the Netherlands has been challenging, particularly in light of the constitutional freedom of education in the Netherlands. Five issues are discussed in this regard: the contents of CE legislation, the normative character of legal requirements, integration of CE legislation in national curriculum aims, clarifying expectations from schools in teaching CE, and teacher education and professionalization.

Author Biographies

Isolde De Groot, Utrecht, Netherlands

Isolde de Groot PhD, is Assistant Professor at the Department of Education, University of Humanistic studies. Her research interests are in education for democracy and meaningful education. Current projects investigate teacher disclosure, democratic experiences in schools, political efficacy of vocational students, civic purpose of higher education students, and controversial issues discussions.

Remmert Daas, University of Amsterdam

Remmert Daas, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam, in which he is involved in several studies of students’ citizenship competences in primary education, secondary education, and tertiary vocational education. He is currently the national research coordinator for the participation of the Netherlands in the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) 2022.

Hessel Nieuwelink

Hessel Nieuwelink, PhD, is full professor of Citizenship Education at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS/HvA). His research focusses on adolescent views on democracy, effective ways of teaching citizenship and democracy, and how teaching controversial issues can contribute to the development of student democratic citizenship.


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How to Cite

De Groot, I., Daas, R., & Nieuwelink, H. (2022). Netherlands: Education for democratic citizenship in Dutch schools: A bumpy road . JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 21(4).



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