Country Focus: The Netherlands


The Dutch have much to celebrate when it comes to science and technology, engineering and maths. Amongst its many achievements, the country is home to Eindhoven – the city with the highest number of patents per capita population in Europe. 

Eindhoven is also where the headquarters of Phillips, technology giant - and keen inGenious partner, is located. Oil company Shell also has a big part to play in encouraging STEM education in the Netherlands and elsewhere, as a partner to the inGenious network.  

Patents, partners – and PISA  

In addition to its patents and inGenious partners, the country can now boast the accolade of having the best STEM-educated students in the European Union, according the latest PISA figures for 2012. 

The PISA 2012 results place the Netherlands in 10th place in the OECD overall (34 countries) and 1st among EU-28 countries. This latest study surveyed 510,000 students worldwide focusing on 15- and 16-year-old students’ competencies in reading and science, with a particular emphasis on maths. 

Behind this success, a long-standing commitment to investing in STEM education, and a tradition of pooling resources from the government and business community 

Planning to succeed in STEM  

The country is already investing in a wide array of STEM-related initiatives, not least Jet-Net and Platform Beta Techniek, both of which allied to the inGenious network, and are among the best examples in Europe of national partnerships in STEM education.   

Latest manifestation of Netherlands planning capacity and forward thinking attitude is the Techniekpact – or Dutch Technology Pact 2020 – a joint initiatives launched in May 2013 by the Government, regions, business community, trade unions and schools.     

When “good” is not good enough

The Dutch state still feels it has a way to go before it can be relaxed about the number of children studying STEM subjects and choosing STEM careers – particularly technology. 

“In the period to 2020, more than 70,000 construction workers, installers, electricians, metal workers, engineers and system analysts will be retiring each year… To be able to compete internationally and to take advantage of market opportunities, the Netherlands needs more highly skilled technologists.”  

Selling a career in technology

The Pact will put in place a variety of ambitious measures. 

To help school children change perception of working in technology as a career option, the Pact will:

• Ensure that by 2020 all 7,000 Dutch primary schools will have science and technology on their curricula  

Make technology a compulsory subject on teacher training programmes from 2014

• Spend €100 million to encourage more science teachers into secondary schools 

• Ensure pupil centricity. The pupil needs to be an active participant

• Strengthen collaboration with the business community which will establish an online technology education portal allowing schools to get support for classroom activities, enable young people to gain experience of technology in a working environment and help schools find internships for their science teachers

To help strengthen vocational education in the Netherlands, with an emphasis on more intensive cooperation between study programmes and the business community: 

A €300 million investment fund provided equally by central and regional governments and employers to invest in public-private education partnerships.

Businesses will provide work placements, laboratory space and equipment to vocational schools and applied science universities.  

Businesses will offer internships and other workplace-based employment experiences, plus 1,000 scholarships annually for technology-related study programmes at university level.   

Time to go Dutch? 

With some European nations falling further behind in subjects essential to the future competitiveness and innovation of their economies, it may be time for business and governments across Europe to “go Dutch” and invest heavily in making STEM subjects the core of the continent’s curricula. Not least because, although the Netherlands might be number one in the EU, Korea, Singapore, Japan and China are the pre-eminent nations in STEM, according to the PISA rankings – which should serve as a real wake-up call for all of us.   


Published: December 2013