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Dutch secondary school pupils ill-prepared for active role in society

29 June 2010

Dutch pupils in the first stage of secondary school have less knowledge about democratic principles and basic social values than pupils in other European countries. This has been revealed by international research on citizenship competences among 14 to 15-year-old pupils in 39 countries. In addition, Dutch pupils are extremely sceptical about equal rights for immigrants in the Netherlands.

Dutch pupils in the first stage of secondary school have less knowledge about democratic principles and basic social values than pupils in other European countries, according to the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS), an international research project on secondary school pupils’ citizenship competences conducted in 39 countries. The report was presented in Gothenburg today by the IEA, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. Only one in four pupils has an excellent understanding of what active citizenship involves. This is in stark contrast to countries such as Finland and Denmark, where 55% to 60% of pupils are well-informed.

Citizenship competences

According to the IEA report, about 15% of Dutch pupils lack the basic knowledge and skills to function well as a citizen in society. Although this percentage is comparable to the international average, it is clearly higher than in most European countries. In the EU, only Greece, Cyprus and Luxembourg have higher percentages, running from 22% to 28% of their secondary school pupils. Of all the participating countries, the citizenship competences of pupils in Indonesia, Paraguay, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic were relatively the poorest.


Dutch pupils hardly differ from those in other European countries with regard to equal rights for men and women. However, Dutch pupils are much more negative about equal rights for immigrants. The Netherlands, together with Belgian Flanders, takes an extreme position in this regard, seen from a European as well as from an international perspective. In the Netherlands, there is also a relatively large difference in pupils’ judgment on equal rights for immigrants between those with Dutch parents and those who have parents with a foreign background. This also holds for pupils in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, England and Flanders.

Trust in government

Dutch pupils’ trust in national government and in politics, however, is much higher than that of pupils in other countries – 70% of Dutch pupils either completely trust government or trust it a great deal. The percentage of 14 to 15-year-olds that does so in other countries is on average 61%. Just over half of Dutch pupils indicate they trust political parties, which is also a significantly higher percentage than in many other countries.


In the Netherlands, the research was carried out by GION, the Groningen Institute for Educational Research. The institute is part of the Faculty for Behavioural and Social Sciences of the University of Groningen. GION conducts research related to teaching and education for third parties such as the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, municipalities, publishers, Regional Training Centres (ROCs), the European Platform and the European Commission. In addition, GION conducts fundamental research funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.

Note for the press

• Information: Ralf Maslowski, Dutch ICCS coordinator: tel. 050-363 7165 (if no reply 050-363 6631) or e-mail: r.maslowski  
• The international First Findings ICCS research report can be downloaded via

Last modified:13 March 2020 01.57 a.m.
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