In the Netherlands, primary schools are given full responsibility for the educational quality and are granted autonomy when it comes to their own curriculum. This applies to all subjects, including arts and culture. The quantity and quality of arts education differs greatly per school. Some schools have specialised art teachers (mainly for music education), but general teachers are responsible for arts and cultural education in most primary schools. Almost every school has one of its teachers trained as culture coordinator who is responsible for the cultural education policy of the school and who coordinates the contacts between the school and the cultural field.
However, the central government does take steps to facilitate the improvement of the quality of cultural education and in developing the primary school teacher’s competencies in this area. Since 2004, all primary schools receive extra funding annually for arts education (EUR 15,15 per pupil 2019) and are expected to have a school policy for cultural education. In 2020, more than half of all primary schools participate in and receive extra funding of the programme Cultural Education with Quality (Cultuureducatie met Kwaliteit). Within this programme, schools and cultural institutions work together on three aims regarding the improvement of cultural education in primary schools:
- To develop and implement a long-term cultural education pathway instead of merely incidental cultural projects.
- To improve the quality of general teachers, art teachers and educators at cultural institutions.
- To strengthen the collaboration between schools and the cultural field.
In the period 2017-2020, the programme receives EUR 10 million annually from the national government, matched with the same amount by provincial and local governments. Between 2015 and 2018, an extra EUR 27 million is invested in music education with the subsidy scheme Impulse Music Education (Impuls Muziekonderwijs) as part of the programme for more music in schools (More Music in Class – Méér Muziek in de Klas). This funding enables more than 1600 primary schools to train the teachers and work together with organisations from the music industry, such as music schools, brass bands, orchestras and pop music venues. Part of this programme is also the stimulation of cooperation between conservatories and teacher training institutes.
Like primary schools, secondary schools are autonomous in shaping their curriculum and their cultural education. In secondary school, however, examination requirements for art lessons are in place. For all pupils in upper secondary education (age 15-18), Cultural and Artistic Education (CKV) is compulsory since 1999. In the school year 2017-2018, a new course CKV has started, which aims at an active art experience. A major difference with the old course is that students conduct research on (parts of) an artistic creative process, which will be examined and graded. Upper secondary pupils can opt for art as an exam subject. Art is divided into general arts and separate arts disciplines (visual arts visual, dance, drama, music). Pupils select one discipline within arts, provided the school offers this as an elective. The art discipline course has a practical and a theoretical component. About 14 percent of the pupils in secondary education take an exam in an art subject. This percentage has been declining over the last decade.
In 2015, the Ministry started a process for a curriculum revision in primary and secondary education. The goal is to adapt education to the knowledge and skills that people need in the near future. New curricula are now being designed and tested for nine learning areas, including one for arts and culture.