No two traditional schools are alike- this makes it almost impossible to describe this type of school in a way that covers all variation in traditional education now existing in the Netherlands. To make things even more complicated- Most traditional schools have integrated many elements of innovation schools in their teaching. For example, the formal dialogues between pupils and teacher in a circle (or ‘kring’) and methods for teaching children to work individually are borrowed from Jenaplan and Montessori education respectively. In spite of this however, traditional school are more likely than innovation schools to focus on teaching ‘basic’ cognitive skills such as numeracy and literacy, whereas innovation schools consider developing social skills and becoming a self-conscious person as important as (or sometimes as a starting point to) learning to write or read.

The roots of several characteristics of traditional education can be traced back to the period in which the first schools were founded after the introduction of various educational laws and the Leerplichtwet (1800-1900). These schools were originally designed to reflect the ‘factory culture’ (Robinson, 2010), in which children of the same age were put together in the same class (an ‘age group system’, or in Dutch: ‘jaarklassysteem’). All children in this class were supposed to have acquired the same amount of prescribed skills and knowledge (on the same level) by the time they reached the end of a school year. Since its founding, traditional education has gone through a series of useful innovations though: for example, teaching strategies and learning programmes are now more often adapted to individual pupils, and teachers in traditional schools are increasingly encouraging their pupils to work individually or in peer groups. However, the ‘factory system’, with its ‘jaarklassysteem’, still forms the basis of the educational concepts used in most Dutch traditional schools.

Are you curious how this educational concept is applied in daily practice in Dutch primary schools and whether it would be suited to your own child? You can read more about this in de Keuzegids Basisonderwijs, which you can download for free on this website.