The Education Council is an independent governmental advisory body which advises the Minister, Parliament and local authorities. The Council provides advice, both solicited and unsolicited, to the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. Moreover, the Council may be asked for advice by the Dutch upper and lower chambers of parliament. Local authorities can call on the Education Council in special cases of local education policy.
The Education Council Act assigns the Council three tasks. Firstly, the Council provides advice - whether solicited or unsolicited - to the Ministers and to both chambers of parliament on education, policy and legislation. The Ministers may request advice and recommendations on policy issues or important legislation. The Council does not, however, play a reactive role only. It also operates as a think tank that provides analyses of current issues and formulates solutions to help develop new policy.
The Council's second advisory task is to formulate recommendations on the application of laws, general administrative orders and ministerial regulations. The Minister requests assistance and advice when (s)he has to make a decision on an individual case, for example if a school for either practical or principled reasons wishes to deviate from a law or regulation.
Lastly, local authorities may ask the Council to develop recommendations on certain aspects of local education policy, such as accommodation, policies regarding educationally disadvantaged pupils, foreign language education and school advisory services. Local authorities can call on the Education Council if they have a dispute with a school board that is directly or indirectly related to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of education.
Annual work programme
The Council performs its tasks on the basis of an annual work programme determined by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. Together with the national budget this programme is presented to the upper and lower chambers of parliament on the third Tuesday in September. If it so desires, the lower chamber can add its own recommendation requests to the work programme.
The work programme gives an overview of the issues that need to be addressed in a particular year. In the course of the year the specifics of the advice requests and time schedules are described in more detail. Subjects are withdrawn or added during the course of the programme.
Method of operating
The Council currently consists of 10 members. They serve in a personal capacity and are appointed by royal decree. The members are independent and do not represent specific interest groups. Expertise is the primary prerequisite for appointment. This expertise may be based on experience gained in educational practice and/or on academic merits. An additional requirement is that the Council is pluriform, meaning that the members form a cross-section of the various religious and social movements in Dutch society.
The Council generally meets twice a month. Recommendations are prepared in committees consisting of council members, staff members and any external experts, and amended and ratified on a plenary basis. When necessary, the Council uses specific practical or academic know-how by enlisting the services of a ‘pool' of education experts from the primary, secondary, vocational and agricultural education sectors. The Council may also hire external experts to conduct research so as to obtain input for its recommendations.
The Secretariat supports the work of the Education Council. There are currently 17 staff employed in the Secretariat: 10 academic staff and 7 support staff. The General Secretary of the Council is also in charge of the Secretariat.