Chapter 5. Enhancing teacher professional development in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has pursued numerous initiatives to improve the quality and attractiveness of the teaching profession, including the establishment of a teacher’s register, greater salary flexibility and more selective entry into teacher training. While many teachers are approaching retirement age some challenges remain. This chapter examines policies and practices to enhance teacher professionalism and further improve the career structure. It examines the teaching skills of Dutch teachers, their initial education and professional development opportunities, as well as the potential obstacles to participation. It highlights the importance of a life cycle approach to teachers’ professional development that is underpinned by a diversified career structure, and the promotion of collaborative working and learning among other teachers and school leaders.


A life cycle approach

Building teacher professionalism is a lifelong and collective endeavour

Teacher quality is an exceptionally strong predictor of student learning (Hattie, 2008; Hanuschek and Rivkin, 2012). Quality teaching and learning needs to be nurtured throughout the professional life cycle. This starts with effective arrangements to select talented individuals; strong initial teacher education; further continuous professional development linked to school goals; and collective learning and working, starting with quality induction programmes for starting teachers (Schleicher, 2016; OECD, 2014a). This needs to be supported by a well-designed career structure that helps attract, retain and motivate teachers to give their best throughout their careers. These issues will be considered in turn.

Attracting and selecting trainee teachers

Many teachers are approaching retirement age

In upper secondary vocational education (MBO), more than half the teachers are over 50 years of age (Figure 5.1). This is a challenge because highly experienced teachers will be lost and replacing them with good recruits will be difficult. However, it is also an opportunity to reshape and enhance the skills of the teaching workforce to ensure that it is ready to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world (MoECS, 2013).

Teaching is not considered a high status profession

A great deal of effort has been expended to make the teaching profession more attractive (MoECS, 2015a), but although 9 out of 10 Dutch teachers are satisfied with their jobs, only 4 out of 10 report that society values their profession (OECD, 2014b). Projections suggest a rise in the number of vacancies in primary education, but with regional variations. At the secondary level it remains difficult to find sufficient teachers for certain subjects, for example mathematics and science. Despite the large number of retirements in MBO, large shortages are not expected as teachers can also be recruited from working life (Fontein et al., 2015).

Good quality teaching requires high level recruits

The strongest education systems typically make teaching a highly selective profession (Barber and Mourshed, 2007), and the cognitive skills of teachers are a significant determinant of international differences in student performance. Until recently in the Netherlands, all those who had obtained an MBO level 4, general secondary education (HAVO) or pre-university education (VWO) diploma could enter teacher training. An analysis of the cognitive skills of teachers, based on data from the Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), confirms that recruitment has not been from the top of the cohort of secondary education graduates (Schleicher, 2013; Hanushek, Piopiunik and Wiederhold, 2014).

Figure 5.1. Percentage of teachers by age group and school type, 2013

Source: Eurostat (2015), “Distribution of teachers at education level and programme orientation by age groups [educ_uoe_perd01]”, Eurostat database, Eurostat, (accessed 11 January 2016).

Entrance to teacher training has become more selective

In 2010, mathematics and language test requirements were introduced for first year trainee teachers for primary education. A test at the end of training has been in place in teacher training programmes for both primary and secondary education since 2013/14 (Van der Rijst, Tigelaar and van Driel, 2014). The quality of new teachers is seen to have improved partly due to this measure (Inspectorate of Education, 2015). Further subject knowledge requirements have been imposed on those wanting to enter teacher training for primary education from 2015/16 onwards. Students coming from VWO can enter directly, unlike students from HAVO and MBO. As a result of these stricter entry requirements, some 30% fewer students started teacher training in 2015 compared to the previous year (The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, 2015), and projections suggest the sector will face a shortage of 4 000 full-time primary teachers in 2020 (Fontein et al., 2015).

Entry requirements may have become too selective and are focused only on cognitive skills

The projected teacher shortages suggest that entrance tests to the profession may be too demanding and do not take into account other criteria, such as non-cognitive skills, that may better reflect the complex nature of teaching. Teacher education institutions have recently started various initiatives around intake procedures and selection options. The evidence shows a wider range of selection criteria can be used effectively (Van der Rijst, Tigelaar and van Driel, 2014; European Commission, 2013). Finland, for example, selects secondary graduates based on exam results, a written test on assigned books on pedagogy, observations in school situations and interviews (Sahlberg, 2010).

Initial teacher training

There are three different teaching qualifications (see Table 3.1)

A secondary teacher’s diploma (i.e. a bachelor’s degree) is required to teach in primary schools and in the lower grades of secondary schools. To teach in the upper classes of HAVO and VWO, teachers are required to complete a first level teacher’s degree, (i.e. a master’s degree). In 2013, 91% of primary teachers had a higher education professional (HBO) diploma, of which a small proportion had an HBO-master diploma. In general secondary education, 68% have an HBO diploma. In MBO, almost 80% had an HBO diploma and 14% were university graduates (Berndsen et al., 2014). While teacher education institutions have great flexibility, minimum competency requirements are set out in seven domains in the Education Professions Act (2006), which covers competencies such as: interpersonal, pedagogical, subject-specific and didactical, organisational competencies, competencies to co-operate with colleagues and with the environment, and self-reflective and developmental competencies (OECD, 2015a).

The quality of teacher education needs to continue to improve

Evidence suggests that the quality of teacher education has improved, although some uncertainty surrounds this claim, for example the relative value of bachelor’s and master’s degrees.1 While the results of the 2015 accreditation round of teacher education programmes for primary education were markedly better than six years before, quality remains variable. Graduates of second-degree teacher education programmes are less positive about their education than those who have studied for primary education (NVAO, 2015a; Inspectorate of Education, 2015). The research component of teacher education may need strengthening, and first-degree secondary teacher education programmes at universities are too distanced from practice. Improved specialised programmes for (V)MBO teachers will become operational in 2016/17 (MoECS, 2015b).

Table 5.1. Teacher education qualifications: Standard programme and institutional providers

Types of qualifications

Standard programme

Institutional providers


Allows for teaching in  

Primary education teaching qualification

  • Four years integrated bachelor programme (education and practice).

  • Primary education – all grades

  • Special education – all grades

University of Applied Sciences (HBO) – “Pedagogic Academic Basic Education” (PABO)

Secondary education 2nd degree teaching qualification

  • Four years integrated bachelor programme on subject (e.g. English).

  • VMBO – all grades (1 to 4)

  • HAVO – grades 1 to 3

  • VWO – grades 1 to 3

  • MBO – all grades

University of Applied Sciences (HBO)

Secondary education 1st degree teaching qualification

  • Four years bachelor or master programme focused on subject, followed by 1 or 2 years pedagogical and didactical integrated master programme.

  • VMBO – all grades (1 to 4)

  • HAVO – all grades (1 to 5)

  • VWO – all grades (1 to 6)

  • MBO – all grades

University – teacher education college

University of Applied Sciences (HBO)

Co-operation between teacher education institutions and schools is insufficient

Many countries are putting more emphasis on getting trainee teachers into classrooms earlier and for longer (Schleicher, 2011); and effective co-operation between teacher education programmes and the schools in which teaching practice takes place is vital. The Inspectorate of Education (2016) concludes that contact between teacher education institutions and schools is not guaranteed. The American “professional development schools” and Sweden’s recently established “training schools” are examples of such as partnerships between teacher education programmes and schools (Harris and van Tassel, 2005; OECD, 2015a). In the Netherlands, such partnerships have been promoted but are not yet well established (Oberon and University Utrecht, 2015).

Differentiated teaching skills

New teachers feel they lack assessment and differentiated teaching skills

Chapters 3 and 4 of this review argue that teachers need better preparation for more diverse levels of attainment in the classroom. Recently trained teachers often report that they are unprepared to systematically assess students and differentiate their teaching (NVAO, 2015a, 2015b; Inspectorate of Education, 2016). Nearly half of all school principals still allocate new teachers to combination classes (e.g. HAVO/VWO), where the capacity to teach classes with a wide range of attainment levels is particularly important (Inspectorate of Education, 2015).

These weaknesses are common among all teachers

PISA 2012 shows that 65% of school principals in the Netherlands (compared with an OECD average of 21%) report that teachers fail to encourage students to achieve their full potential; 59% say that teachers in their schools are not performing well in teaching students of different ability levels within the same class; and 71% say that teachers are not meeting individual student needs. These reports may partly reflect the high expectations of school leaders, but the Inspectorate also reports that in the classroom there is little evidence of teaching being tailored to differences between students: there is insufficient feedback to students and students are not encouraged to take an active role in their own learning (Inspectorate of Education, 2015, 2016). At the secondary level, the Inspectorate found that less than half of teachers differentiate their instruction between students. In primary education, VMBO, and the highest classes of VWO, more teachers display differentiated teaching skills. Teachers may not themselves recognise these weaknesses: in TALIS 2013 few teachers acknowledged that they need additional training in individualised teaching, and assessment and evaluation (OECD, 2014b).

Other countries promote models for differentiated teaching

The Netherlands should look towards Australia, Finland, Germany, New Zealand and Scotland that have prioritised formative assessment and differentiated teaching, including for initial teacher training (OECD, 2005; Schleicher, 2011; see also Box 5.1). In Finland, for example, teachers are trained to use a broad spectrum of methods to differentiate instruction and respond to the needs of each student. The Netherlands may move in a similar direction with the development of a national curriculum that has clearer learning goals and more personalised teaching and learning (MoECS, 2016a).

Box 5.1. Examples of differentiated teaching and the role of assessment

The comprehensive school Gesamtschule Schüpberg, Switzerland, is a small school with a multi-grade classroom. The school lays particular emphasis on the heterogeneity of the student group, and regards the heterogeneous student body as a stimulating and motivating influence on the children’s social and cognitive development. Activities are adjusted to the development of the individual child. The children, as well as the teachers, write feedback into their learning booklet (“Lernheft”), which contains self-evaluations, feedback, learning aims, etc. The entries are subsequently discussed in individual conversations between child and teacher.

In the Lisbjerg School,Denmark, there are two large mixed-age groups of three years each (6 to 9 or 10 to 13). The students are also organised into smaller groups of 12 pupils, which are also mixed in terms of age. Teaching is differentiated and alternates between work within the bigger and the smaller groups. Individual teacher-pupil feedback/assessment sessions are held every second month. During these pupil-teacher sessions, the Plan for Interpersonal, Educational Development (“the child’s storyline”) is discussed on the basis of the work with portfolios. The aims previously set are evaluated and new aims are formulated. The pupils’ primary teacher is responsible for putting these aims into writing. The portfolios are also used for self-assessment and as an assessment tool for the regular pupil-teacher feedback sessions. Finally, the portfolios are used as an important instrument for parent-teacher meetings.

The Europaschule Linz, Austria, uses a combination of student-initiated and traditional forms of learning. Open structures are used to foster self-determination and independence. Autonomous, self-determined learning and alternating social modes are seen as a basis for differentiation and individualisation. The adoption of flexible roles for teachers and pupils and the use of team-based teaching support a more individual approach that embraces differences in, for instance, ability and learner types. Teachers provide students with feedback in order to foster social skills and competencies. The feedback is based on seven criteria: “respects the other’s personality and work”, “is able to co-operate”, “is able to communicate”, “shows reliability and sense of responsibility”, “is able to deal with criticism”, “abides by rules agreed on”, “handles his/her own and the other’s property carefully”.

Source: OECD (2013a), Innovative Learning Environments, Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Starting teachers

Starting teachers are not receiving enough support

In the Netherlands, 12% of newly qualified primary school teachers, and 22% of their secondary counterparts, leave teaching within a year (Inspectorate of Education, 2015). Research evidence shows that well-designed induction programmes increase teacher retention and satisfaction and improve teaching quality (Kessels, 2010; Ingersoll and Strong, 2011). However, TALIS 2013 showed that less than half of Dutch secondary teachers had participated in formal or informal induction programmes, while in Japan and Singapore, this figure is eight out of ten (OECD, 2014b). Van der Boom, Vrielink and Vloet (2014) found that 28% of new teachers in Dutch primary schools received no supervision of any kind; this figure was 14% for new secondary school teachers. The support provided is often organisational rather than pedagogical, and temporary staff receive little support (Van der Boom, Vrielink and Fontein, 2015). Sector agreements now encourage and fund school boards to give guidance, including coaching, to new teachers, or an additional time budget of 40 hours a year to reduce the workload (MoECS, 2015b). However, national data show no rise in the percentage of starting primary teachers receiving induction and mentoring support.

A recent pilot “coaching starting teachers in secondary education” addresses the issue

This project, started by MoECS in 2014, covers just over one third of secondary schools and 1 000 starting teachers. It stimulates the collaboration between initial teacher education institutions and schools and provides starting teachers with a strong induction programme that lasts three years. The pilot is under evaluation to determine its potential for national implementation (MoECS, 2015b).

Continuous professional development

Participation in professional development is high among full-time teachers

In 2013, 93% of lower secondary teachers in the Netherlands had participated in some form of professional development, similar to other strong performers such as Estonia, Korea and Poland (OECD, 2014b). In addition, 20% of teachers were following a qualification programme. This high level of participation reflects scholarships for teachers to pursue the masters and Ph.D. programmes that MoECS has promoted in recent years. Part-time teachers participate much less, which is a big issue in primary education where many of them work (Inspectorate of Education, 2014).

Despite funding, teachers face barriers to professional development

Collective labour agreements grant teachers up to EUR 600 and 83 clock hours for professional development; “sector agreements”2 for primary and secondary education grant additional funds to school boards for this purpose. A Teacher Development Fund offers schools up to EUR 75 000 and coaching for promising teacher-initiated innovations in teaching and learning. However, there are many barriers to participation that have to be overcome. In 2013, 38% of secondary teachers reported that professional development conflicts with their work schedule, 39% said that there is no relevant professional development offered, and 31% believed that there are no incentives for participation (OECD, 2014b).

Annual teacher appraisals are not yet routine

Teacher appraisal in the Netherlands is primarily used to improve teaching through professional development (Nusche et al., 2014). National regulations require performance interviews at least once every four years in primary education and every three years in secondary education. MoECS’ strategic plan, the Teachers Agenda 2013-2020, underlines the importance of keeping teacher’s knowledge and skills up to date and calls for all teachers to be appraised at least once a year by 2020. The percentage of teachers in primary, secondary and upper secondary vocational education that had an appraisal at least once a year in 2015 (81%, 71% and 75% respectively) has risen, but not as quickly as intended (MoECS, 2015b).

Sometimes, appraisals have no concrete impact

Four out of ten Dutch teachers believe that appraisal and feedback have little impact on their classroom practice (OECD, 2014b). This may be because the school leaders involved have not been trained to appraise teachers and little formal guidance is available on the required appraisal processes. School boards are free to develop their own approach to teacher appraisal within the framework of the teacher competency requirements, but some have criticised this framework for being too vague (Education Council, 2010; OECD, 2014a). An earlier OECD report (Nusche et al., 2014) suggested that the Netherlands should look towards Norway where a national programme aims to equip school leaders to appraise teachers, and for their role as pedagogical leaders.

Many teachers do not work and learn collectively

Research evidence shows the potential of collaborative working and learning among teachers to improve instruction (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012). Though better developed in upper secondary vocational education schools, many Dutch primary and secondary teachers tend to work alone (MoECS, 2015b; Oberon, Kohnstamm Institute and ICLON, 2014; see Figure 5.2). In TALIS 2013, for example, only 11% of secondary teachers in the Netherlands reported participating in collective professional development at least once per month (TALIS average of 17%) (OECD, 2014b). Some 60% of teachers in primary and secondary education participated in peer reviews in 2015, which was less than previous years following a decline at the primary level (MoECS, 2015b).

These findings are an obstacle to the Netherlands’ ambitions for schools as learning organisations

These ambitions are linked to a model of collective learning (MoECS, 2013) (Kools and Stoll, forthcoming). Initiatives such as the Education Co-operate’s Peer Review project or the Foundation LeerKRACHT programme (Box 5.2) that promote professional collaboration are therefore important. School leaders and boards could also play a more active role in encouraging teachers to pursue collaborative learning and working within and across schools. This will be discussed further in Chapters 6 and 7.

Figure 5.2. Activities undertaken by lower secondary teachers at least once per month, TALIS 2013

Note: Figures are percentages.

Source: OECD (2014b), TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Unqualified teachers

Many lessons in secondary schools are still taught by unqualified teachers

Unqualified teachers are primarily found in general secondary education in certain subject areas. In PISA 2012, school principals reported that only 80% of secondary teachers were fully certified (OECD, 2013b). Dronkers (2010), using PISA 2009 data, showed that if an appropriately trained teacher taught all classes, performance would increase considerably. According to the schools that still employ unqualified teachers, they are often teachers nearing retirement age who have performed adequately for many years (Inspectorate of Education, 2015). But this view has been challenged, and MoECS has therefore recently presented a plan to reduce the number of unqualified teachers in secondary education (MoECS, 2016b).

The teacher register will become mandatory in 2017

In 2012, the Netherlands followed the example of strongly performing education systems such as Australia, Ontario (Canada), New Zealand and Scotland with the development of a teacher register, which will be mandatory from 2017. To become and stay registered, teachers need to be qualified and show that they meet professional development requirements (i.e. 160 hours per 4 years). The register is expected to improve the status of teachers, support professional development and limit the use of unqualified staff. The registration system is still under development and its role has not yet been clearly defined (see below; Nusche et al., 2014).

Box 5.2. “Foundation leerKRACHT” programme promotes peer review and collaborative work planning

Foundation leerKRACHT (the Dutch word for teacher) started in 2012 and aims to: 1) implement a bottom-up capacity building programme for schools, which aims to reach more than 5 000 Dutch primary and secondary schools by 2020 (out of a total 8 700); and 2) reshape national education policy to create a strong body of teachers and stimulate schools to create a “continuous improvement culture”.

The foundation believes in the quality of the teacher and aims to return the ownership of education back to the teachers. It aims to achieve this by helping schools create a continuous improvement culture in which teachers work together to improve their teaching, with school leaders serving as role models by engaging in the improvement process. Teachers and school administrators that participate in the programme work closely together to improve education in schools at their discretion.

Three improvement processes are central to the programme: 1) classroom observation and feedback conversation; 2) joint lesson planning; and 3) board sessions. This “board session” is copied from the LEAN movement in the manufacturing industry, where small teams hold daily stand-up meetings to jointly improve quality. The approach is underpinned by forum meetings with “foundation leerKRACHT schools” in the region, and by visits to companies that have a continuous improvement culture.


This private initiative now involves 1 in 10 secondary schools in the Netherlands, 1 in 3 vocational schools and hundreds of primary schools (van Tartwijk and Lockhorst, 2014).

Source: Foundation LeerKRACHT (2016),

The teacher career structure

The teacher career structure is underdeveloped

The Teachers Agenda 2013-2020 formulated objectives to promote the professional development of teachers (Elffers, 2015). An earlier OECD report (Nusche et al., 2014) argued for a career structure that recognises and rewards excellence and allows teachers to diversify their careers. However, some teacher positions, such as “co-ordinator” or “student teacher supervisor”, yield no salary increase (Elffers, 2015), and aside from the career step of senior teacher, the only promotion opportunity would be a principal position (Gerrichhauzen, 2007; Evers, 2007; Commission Teachers, 2007). The Netherlands could look towards the examples of countries such as Australia, Estonia, New Zealand and Singapore that have diversified the career structure to recognise that teachers develop and grow as professionals throughout their teaching careers, and that teachers may wish to follow different career pathways (see Box 5.3; AITSL, 2012: Schleicher, 2011).

Box 5.3. Vertically and horizontally differentiated career structures for teachers

Australia has made a vertical differentiation on the basis of teaching competences, with increasing requirements on their knowledge, practice and professional engagement. These are reflected in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers:

  • Graduate – demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students and how these may affect learning.

  • Proficient – use teaching strategies based on knowledge of students’ physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics to improve student learning.

  • Highly Accomplished – select from a flexible and effective repertoire of teaching strategies to suit the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.

  • Lead – lead colleagues to select and develop teaching strategies to improve student learning using knowledge of the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students (AITSL, 2012).

In Singapore, high quality teachers are often cited as one of the reasons for excellent outcomes (Goodwin, 2014; OECD, 2011). There are three horizontally differentiated tracks to promotion and higher pay: a teaching track, a leadership track and a specialist track. Each route has multiple, ascending, positions, with corresponding salaries (Elffers, 2015). These different tracks and roles provide teachers with opportunities for advancement within or outside the classroom. Each role runs for a fixed term, apart from the within-school teacher role, which is a mix of permanent and fixed-term positions. It attracts significant additional remuneration to help recognise the most effective teachers and principals. Teachers or leaders changing track or position get corresponding training and mentoring support from the National Institute of Education. This usually involves shorter programmes from several weeks to months, after which teachers can apply their new knowledge and skills in their school. This training is explicitly linked to positions on the career ladder that are underpinned by professional standards.


Sources: AITSL (2012), “Standard 1: Know students and how they learn”, AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership),; Elffers, L. (2015), “De loopbaanladder van leraren in Singapore” [The career ladder of teachers in Singapore],; OECD (2011), Lessons from PISA for the United States, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, OECD Publishing, Paris,; Goodwin, A. L. (2014), “Perspective on high-performing education systems in Finland, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, and Singapore: What lessons for the U.S.?”, in S.K. Lee, W.O. Lee and E.L. Low (eds.), Educational Policy Innovations: Levelling Up and Sustaining Educational Achievement, Springer, Singapore.

The “functions mix” promotes greater salary diversity

The 2008 “functions mix” policy is designed to enable promotions based on differences in teacher competencies and performance, and allows teachers to receive a higher salary where there are shortages. At the upper secondary vocational education level, the functions mix policy focuses on the Randstad region, which is most affected by teacher shortages. Contrary to the recommendation of the Commission Teachers (2007), promotion to a higher position and salary scale has not been linked to higher qualifications. Instead, implementation of the policy has been left to school boards. A great deal succeeds or fails as a result of the (variable) capacity of school boards and school leaders to manage human resources (Education Council, 2013; Inspectorate of Education, 2015).

Are conditions sufficiently attractive to draw highly qualified individuals into the profession?

The Functions mix policy has succeeded in keeping a slightly larger share of teachers in the Randstad region, but the proportion of unqualified teachers has not changed (van der Steeg, Gerritsen and Kuijpers, 2015; CPB, 2014). Although the function mix is acknowledged as a first step to making teaching a more attractive career option due to faster career advancement opportunities, several reports have argued that the relatively low salaries continue to deter highly qualified individuals from joining the profession (see Figure 5.3; Education Council, 2013; Cörvers, 2014). A recent study showed that secondary education students underestimate the salaries of teachers substantially (Researchned, 2015), suggesting that better career information advice may also be needed.

Figure 5.3. Average teacher salaries, relative to earnings, for tertiary-educated workers aged 25-64, 2013

Source: OECD (2015b), Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Recommendations 6-8: Strengthen teacher professionalism and further develop the career structure

Recommendation 6: Building teacher professionalism calls for a life cycle approach, starting with effective initial selection arrangements and mandatory induction, and for promoting collaborative working and learning within and across schools

Balance increased selectiveness with market realism to ensure an adequate supply of qualified teachers, and base selection on a wide range of criteria

While making entry into teacher education increasingly selective is desirable, it needs to be blended with market realism to ensure an adequate number of recruits. It also needs to be based on a wider range of selection criteria, including non-cognitive competencies, to better reflect the complex nature of teaching.

Promote collaborative professionalism within and across schools, starting with mandatory induction and strong collaborations between teacher education institutions and schools

The effectiveness of team learning and collaboration for improving teaching and learning is well recognised, however, such practices are not well established in the Dutch school system. MoECS should therefore continue to step up its efforts to promote professional collaboration across the system. School leaders and boards play a pivotal role in establishing a learning culture within and beyond the school grounds (see also Chapters 6 and 7). As in Finland, Germany, Northern Ireland and Singapore, the Netherlands should establish mandatory induction periods that allow starting teachers to receive systematic support. In Singapore, teachers have 20% fewer teaching hours for the first three years of teaching and also receive mentoring support. Teacher education institutions need to connect with schools to guarantee the relevance of their training programmes and to provide continuous support to schools and their teachers throughout the professional life cycle.

Recommendation 7: Develop a teacher career structure that promotes greater salary and career diversity, is founded on clear competence standards, and links appraisal to professional and school development goals

A strengthened career structure and appraisal system would underpin teacher professionalism

The Netherlands should further develop the teacher career structure to ensure it offers teachers a variety of career paths, recognising and challenging them throughout their careers. The diversified career structure should be based on revised teacher competency standards that are clear and recognise that teachers develop and grow as professionals throughout their teaching careers, and that teachers may wish to follow different career pathways. The revised standards should be linked to the offer of professional development. A clear competency framework would also support more effective teacher appraisal. Teacher appraisal should be closely linked to the school’s improvement goals and understanding of effective teaching, as is done in countries such as England, Northern Ireland, Korea and New Zealand. The capacity of school leaders, and others responsible for conducting appraisals, needs improvement, and school boards should ensure that schools develop appraisal processes (Nusche et al., 2014).

Ensure salaries are sufficiently attractive to draw highly qualified individuals into the profession

The function mix has made teaching into a more attractive career option with faster career advancement opportunities. However, teacher shortages remain a challenge, in particular in disadvantaged schools and for certain subjects. Given that many staff are approaching retirement, and the relatively low salaries compared to other tertiary educated individuals in the Netherlands, further action may be needed. The proposed further development of the career structure could serve as an opportunity to ensure both greater career and salary diversity.

Recommendation 8: Put increased and sustained emphasis on differentiated teaching skills throughout initial training and subsequent professional development.

This chapter offers evidence that differentiated teaching skills, and the capacity to appraise individual students, are weak in the Netherlands. Chapter 3 argued that these skills are critical to teaching performance, even in a highly tracked system, in order to ensure that those deserving of track promotion can rapidly be identified and encouraged. Chapter 4 argued that the pursuit of excellence and the motivation of students require an individualised approach to teaching so that individual learning goals are relevant, engaging and demanding. Differentiated teaching skills therefore play a key systemic role in addressing some of the main challenges in Dutch education. This means that there needs to be a step improvement in the level of attention that is given to these skills at every stage of the professional development of teachers.


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← 1. This is discussed, for example, by van Veen, Van Dreil and Veldman, 2011. Though research evidence shows only an indirect effect (Chingos and Peterson, 2011; Hanushek and Rivkin, 2012), it certainly contributes to the image of the profession (OECD, 2011).

← 2. The sector agreements describe the ambitions for the respective sectors (primary education and secondary education) for the period from 2014 to 2017. They contain agreements on priorities, objectives, measures and investments.