Key documents: Special Education Interim Act, Primary Education Act, Secondary Education Act, Expertise Centers Act , and the Appropriate Education Act.

Characteristics: SEN education in the Netherlands is fully integrated in national legislation and there is no specific action plan or strategy with regards to autism. The universal right to education was addressed implemented well before the UDHR was established and adopted.


  • Compulsory education has been in place for all children in the Netherlands since 1901 [1].
  • A framework to regulate schools that specifically focus on special education is laid down in the Special Education Interim Act [2]. In this Act, special needs are first recognised and addressed within the Dutch education system.
  • Consequently, primary education was split between mainstream education and special education, with both being regulated by the government. The separation facilitated the inclusion of all children ages four to twelve in the education system.
  • Amendments to the Secondary Education Act in 1998 resulted in the coverage of secondary special education for children with learning and behavioural difficulties and for students with moderate learning difficulties [3].
  • The educational trajectory for all children aged four to eighteen was henceforth determined by three legislative acts, namely the Primary Education Act for mainstream primary education [4], the Secondary Education Act for secondary mainstream and special education, and the Expertise Centers Act (the new name of the Special Education Interim Act).
  • In an attempt to integrate special education into mainstream education, major reforms were made to these three Acts in 2012 in the Appropriate Education Act [5]. The reforms were aimed at broadening the scope of provision of services from care-based to support-based. This implied that the provision of special needs services was no longer restricted to medical needs. Instead, it could now address the full range of special education needs that limited children from fully participating in the education system.
  • A notable feature of the Dutch education system, as reported by the OECD [6], is that it has adopted a scheme where the funds that a school receives is based on the number of students enrolled in that institution.

[1]  Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. History of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. 2018. Available from:
[2] Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. Wet op de expertisecentra. 1982. Available from:
[3] Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. Wet op het voortgezet onderwijs. 1963. Available from:
[4] Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. Wet Passend Onderwijs. 2012. Available from:
[5] Nederlandse Grondwet - Tiende Hoofdstuk. Van het Onderwijs en het Armbestuur. 1917. Available from:
[6] OECD. School choice and school vouchers. 2017. Available from: