SDG 4 stresses the importance of high quality and accessible education for all age groups and in all stages of life: from nursery school and primary education to vocational and higher education, followed by lifelong learning. People must be equipped with the right skills and competencies to be able to do fulfilling work and play an active part in civil society.
Summary of results
- Trends point predominantly towards stable or increasing well-being.
- The Netherlands is mostly at the top or in the middle of the EU rankings.
- The downward (green) trend for early school leavers puts the Netherlands among the EU leaders.
- The share of the Dutch population with a medium level of education is decreasing. This group includes people whose highest education level is senior years of HAVO/VWO, and levels 2,3 and 4 of MBO. These qualifications are in demand for many jobs in the Netherlands; the trend is red. The share of people with higher education levels is trending upwards (green).
- In the context of this dashboard, more government spending on education is viewed as favourable for well-being of individual citizens. The trend is stable.
Dashboard and indicators
According to SDG 4, everyone should have access to a good education. Appropriate and accessible education is important for all age groups and in all stages of life, from nursery school and primary education to vocational and higher education, followed by lifelong learning. Skills and competencies of pupils and students and the population as a whole are largely determined by the quality of education they are in, or have received in the past. Education also ensures that the present and the future population have the right skills to perform in a knowledge-intensive environment and to play an active role in civil society.
Dutch education policy focuses on guaranteeing and improving the quality of education and creating opportunities for young people through education, training or work. Dutch government have also put measures in place to promote and stimulate lifelong learning. In the context of this SDG, education therefore includes initial education and further self-development.
The trends in the dashboard mostly point to stable or increasing well-being. Where sufficient data are available to determine medium-term trends for 2015-2022, they are favourable for four indicators and unfavourable for one. In the EU rankings, the Netherlands is among the leaders on five indicators.
Resources and opportunities
Resources and opportunities relate to the range and affordability of available education. From the perspective of well-being and the achievement of the SDGs, the rising trend in hours worked in education is favourable. In 2022 this was on average 45 hours, up from 39 hours per capita at the start of the trend period in 2015.
Use refers to participation in education. Nearly all Dutch children (97.1 percent) from the age of four years to the age of compulsory education attended nursery classes (pre-primary education). The Netherlands is in the leading group in the EU in preventing children leaving education early: in 2022, 5.6 percent of people aged 18 to 24 years left school prematurely, i.e. without a basic qualification (at least senior general secondary education (HAVO), pre-university education (VWO) or intermediate vocational education (MBO) level 2). The figure includes the total group of early school leavers aged 18 to 24 years in both state-funded and private education. The trend is downward. For lifelong learning, we measure the percentage of the population aged 25 to 74 years who had recently participated in a course or training. This figure was high compared with the rest of the EU.
Outcomes concern educational attainment levels and specific skill levels. In 2022, 36.6 percent of the population aged 15 to 74 years had a high level of education, and the trend is rising. The group with medium levels of education is even larger (37.2 percent), but the trend for this group is falling. It is the only indicator in this dashboard with a red trend. The overall rise in education levels of the population may mean that it is hard to find people to fill job vacancies requiring vocational skills. The Netherlands occupies a middle position in Europe in terms of overall education levels. It should be noted, however, that although all EU countries report on education level according to the same international classification (ISCED), education systems differ greatly between countries. Differences in national policies and organisation must be taken into account when interpreting the results.
It is difficult to gain a clear picture of literacy and numerical skills of students and of the population in general. The Dutch education inspectorate published a baseline measurement for academic year 2018-2019 to assess whether pupils were sufficiently proficient and/or had achieved set targets for reading and arithmetic at the end of primary education. It was the first time the assessment included the results of all five end-of-primary-school tests. Schools often closed for periods of time during the coronavirus pandemic, and home schooling became the norm. It is difficult to gauge the impact of the loss of face-to-face teaching on learning outcomes. A follow-up to this baseline assessment has therefore yet to be conducted. In order to determine the international position for reading and mathematics skills, the monitor uses the three-yearly PISA survey of 15-year-olds in OECD countries. The mathematical skills of 15-year-olds were strong in 2018 compared with pupils in other EU countries. No more recent figures have yet become available.
Lastly, digital skills are essential in a knowledge-intensive economy. Four in five people living in the Netherlands aged 16 to 74 years have at least basic computer skills. This put the Netherlands at the top of the European rankings in 2021, alongside Finland.
Subjective assessment refers to how people experience education and their education opportunities. Satisfaction with education opportunities is high: in 2022 83.4 percent of the adult population in the Netherlands were satisfied, slightly down on 2021 (84.8 percent); the medium-term trend is rising. The current labour market tension may also be a factor here, with employers perhaps providing extra training opportunities for their employees.