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, Sciences and Cultural Affairs and the Minister of Economy. 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 (of 15 May 1997, Statute Book 220) describes the Council's task in more detail.
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.
The Council performs its tasks on the basis of an annual work programme determined by the Minister of Education, Sciences and Cultural Affairs. 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.