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Right to education in the Netherlands

Marieke Hopman


17 October 2016

Without social interaction it can’t be done

17 October 2016 | By | No Comments

This interview in VOS/ABB magazine, on the previous case study (right to education in the Netherlands), came out last week. Title: “Without social interaction it can’t be done”. Subtitle: “Social interaction is crucial for a healthy development of children, emphasizes legal philosopher Marieke Hopman. Therefore she posits that homeschooling in principle is harmful and schools should do more with social interaction”.

Interestingly, they asked a homeschooler (mother) to reply. She argues that firstly the primary goal of education is knowledge and cultural education, not socialization. Secondly, socialization can happen through the village, the church, the family, which – in apparent contrast to schools – are not “child reservations”.20161017_142829

Marieke Hopman


17 May 2016

Presentation report ‘What child has a right to education?’

17 May 2016 | By | No Comments

Dear all,

I have finished my research report on the right to education in the Netherlands! It will be presented twice (!!); on May 26 in the Hague, on May 27 at Tilburg University. There is a wonderful expert panel on each location, and I think it will be a wonderful event. If you would like to attend, please email me at Hope to see yo there!
Here’s the program:

programma presentatie

Marieke Hopman


28 March 2016

What’s most important about the right to education?

28 March 2016 | By | No Comments

It’s funny; when I started my research on the child’s right to education I guess I was prejudiced, with hindsight, thinking that the right to education had mostly to do with the content of education (maths, reading and writing, etc) and the form in which it is taught (is it interesting, fun, does it make you curious?, etc). This is also the area in which I teach about 80 becoming-primary school teachers each year.
However, the more I speak to children about the subject, the more I begin to understand that in fact the most important thing about the right to education BY FAR is its social side. From a child’s perspective, in the first place education is about learning social skills, about belonging, acceptance and rejection, problem solving and conflict resolution.
Yes, the content is important too and everyone wants to learn how to read and write. But really the social side is much more important. It is a condition; if you are being bullied, you cannot focus on schoolwork. It is the thing that they are most worried about, it is the thing that is most on their mind every day. It is also the thing children argue they will need most when they grow up. Yes you need basic skills, but you do not really necessarily need the things that will get you straight A’s in school. What you do absolutely need however are social skills. To lead a happy and successful life you need to find a way to belong, to feel good around people (as we are not hermits), you need friends. This is the most important thing about education. And this, the children tell me, adults mostly do not understand at all.
I can’t believe I did not realize this before, after years of working in, and studying, education. I am sure my students-becoming-teachers never learn about social skills, group dynamics, and how to guide their primary school children in this process. But most of all, I am happy that so many children have been taking the time lately to teach me this basic understanding about their rights. The things we can learn from children…

– I have now started to plunge myself into the (academic) literature about social skills and group dynamics in education. If anyone wants to learn about it, I greatly recommend reading “Best Friends, Worst Enemies”, a wonderful and very accessible book by dr. Michael Thompson (a child psychologist working in educational contexts on exactly this subject).

Marieke Hopman


17 March 2016

Political debate on homeschooling

17 March 2016 | By | 11 Comments

Yesterday the Dutch political commission on education debated whether or not, and if so how, Dutch law will be changed to allow for homeschooling. Currently, homeschooling is not allowed except for parents who are exempted from the duty to send their children to school, because of religious reasons. In fact, parents who get this kind of exemption (leerplichtwet 5b) do not have to teach their children at all and there is no control whatsoever on what happens to these children.

You can see why this has to change.

In practice, it is estimated that about 615 children are currently homeschooled in the country.

The debate was a fierce one. Most interestingly, the debate was in great part a debate on which of the legal norms prevails. Is it the child’s right, and does therefore the child get a say? Or is the child a property of the parent, allowing parents to completely decide the form of education the child enjoys (perhaps under certain legal conditions that will be controlled by national inspection), or are children of the state and therefore they must go to school?

A new education law for the Netherlands is expected in 2017 and before that, more debates will follow.

Marieke Hopman


14 March 2016

Field research: short note

14 March 2016 | By | No Comments

Monday, March 15 2016

Drove about 350 km today to do research interviews at a quite different side of the country. But it was all worth it: I spoke to a mother and a child who have went through a lot of trouble trying to combine education with the special needs of the child.

Two really great things happened; first, the child who had told his mother he did not want to speak to me (his autism and medical condition sometimes get the better of conversation), decided to speak to me after all and we had a really great and long conversation about his right to education, a conversation that taught me a lot.

Second, I rent the car to get me to this faraway place from private owners through an online system…And I was late to return it. Instead of holding this against me, I just received a message from them that they will not charge me fully as a contribution to my research project…so cool!

Two great things that almost make me forget the feeling of sadness I so often have trouble getting rid of, after a day of listening to stories about unjustice, frustrations, clashes of ideas about “the best interest of the child”, and the poor children who almost never get the better of this. You would not believe the children’s rights violations occuring in this wealthy, western democratic very civilized country called “the Netherlands” (as, I suppose, in any country if you start doing research..).

Marieke Hopman


1 March 2016

Voice of the child in deciding its education: court case

1 March 2016 | By | No Comments

Today I am researching the court cases over the past 15-20 years with regard to the child’s right to education in the Netherlands. Most cases are very interesting and pose hard questions about who decides over children’s education; the local government, the school, the parents, the state, children?

During this research I came across this highly interesting and heartbreaking case. It is a case of a young boy whose parents are deeply religious “Seventh Day Adventists”. The boy has walked away from home several times, due to different conflicts with his parents. A most important point here is the fact that the boy is homeschooled by his parents, but he argues that the quality of this education is insufficient (he is only schooled 1,5h per day – which is normal in homeschooling).

When The boy walked away for the third time, he spent 11 days in a self-built improvised tent in a park until the police brought him to youth services. He lives in a young people’s home now. At the time of the court case, the boy had been accepted at the local gymnasium (highest level of high school education in the Netherlands).

The great thing about this case is that, in contradiction to many other cases on the right to education, here the boy himself has been heard. We could even say that the position of the child was the central issue to the case. Personally, my heart broke when I read the boys’ statement, where he stated that he wanted to go to a regular school, and in addition, that he disliked that his parents refused to hand over his personal stuff such as clothes, bank card and schoolbooks, and also that he ‘feels really bad about that his parents have let his pets die’.

Marieke Hopman


9 February 2016

Education and the duty to study

9 February 2016 | By | 2 Comments

Dear all,

By now I have interviewed about 20 people on the right to education in the Netherlands, of whom about 50% children. Some of these people had positive experiences with education, some negative. What seems to be a big factor in how children experience their education is the amount of enforcement involved.

How do you remember your education? Was/is it something you do because you MUST or something you do because you WANT TO?

Today I met a 10 year old boy who had even more trouble school timetablethan most children with the obligatory character of education. He simply felt greatly unhappy with teachers telling him what to do (“today you finish paragraph 5.1 of maths and you read 10 pages”, etc). Philosopher Michel Foucault compared a school to a military institution. According to Foucault, schools are focused on teaching discipline, like a military academy. Students are taught discipline like soldiers. You can see this by how even the physical side is forced; you have to sit/stand/walk/stand in line when the teacher tells you to, the timetable is strict.

Any student should who has a problem with authority will not make it to the diploma.

However, the boy I met today now does not study much at all. He is at home most of the time, and his parents are trying to give him space for him to find out what he wants and to start studying it. They believe that with time, something will interest him and he will find the motivation to study, because it is interesting to him. After all, you can learn how to read and write and calculate not only from studybooks. Imagine for example that you find a great interest in stars, you will want to study stars by reading about them, maybe take notes, explain them to others, calculate their positions.

The idea sounds great and wouldn’t it be great if school was just much more FUN? Or can it not be all fun? Does the right to education involve a duty to study?