National Support Services - Netherlands

National Support Services - Netherlands




CINOP is an independent organisation which coordinates international programmes on behalf of the national and European authorities. CINOP is focused on lifelong guidance, quality assurance and ECVET. CINOP realizes solutions for complex issues in education and the labor market. Solutions with impact. CINOP has a passion for learning: CINOP improves, together with partners in education, government and labor markter, learning processes for the development of everybody now and in the future.


The ambition of the National Support Service (NSS) for EPALE in the Netherlands is to be the starting point for all professionals who want to know something about adult learning in the Netherlands and in Europe. We therefore created a broad picture of important initiatives and activities in adult learning in the Netherlands. In addition, the NSS pays special attention to the themes of lifelong learning and basic skills. The following is stated in our workplan  for 2019 - 2020:

In 2015 and 2016 the NSS Netherlands has focused on getting to know the platform, deliver high quality content and promoting the platform. This resulted in a great offer to our stakeholders: a multilingual, innovative and more and more dynamic and interactive platform. In 2017 and 2018 the platform developed and has grown in numbers (users, uploads by users etc.). For 2019 and 2020 the NSS Netherlands will focus on:

  • improve the clarity of the objectives and mandate of EPALE;
  • grow of the community;
  • enhance user experience;
  • improve quality. 


Target groups

The target groups of EPALE include the following types of stakeholders:

  • The staff of local, regional and national bodies involved in adult education, continuing vocational education and training, employment and/or social inclusions;
  • Local, regional and national association(s) for adult learning;
  • Providers of any type of adult learning activities (NGO’s, universities, local authorities, second chance schools, folk high schools, cultural institutions, private companies, employers, labour offices, etc…);
  • Federations/association of providers, teachers, trainers;
  • Media/journalists specialised in educations;
  • Universities/researchers in (adult)education/andragogy;
  • Any other organisation involved or interested in adult learning/andragogy.


Main activities

  • Promoting the EPALE platform
  • We will engage as many users as possible and make them active on the platform
  • We will motivate individual, local, regional and national stakeholders and users to create and/or share high quality content on EPALE 
  • Identifying and contributing relevant content 
  • Participating in the general implementation of EPALE
  • Animating online communities and interactive /social sections of the EPALE platform 
  • Maintenance of NSS pages
  • Support to multilingualism 


Adult education in the Netherlands


When discussing adult education in the Netherlands, we can make a distinction between adult education in general and adult education aimed specifically at adults with low levels of literacy and education. Dutch adult education outside the European context includes all forms of education and training that adults can pursue after obtaining a school-leaving certificate. In the Netherlands, the term ‘adult education’ refers to training in basic literacy, numeracy and digital skills. These are called ‘basic skills’ in the European context.


Adult and Vocational Education Act

Adult education is regulated by the Adult and Vocational Education Act (Wet Educatie Beroepsonderwijs, WEB) of 1996 and targets adults aged 18 years and over with a low level of education. The WEB is also the legal framework for upper secondary vocational education (MBO in the Netherlands) – both for initial MBO programmes1 and for vocational education and training for adults with an initial qualification (CVET, Continuous VET). Within adult education, the WEB distinguishes between Dutch literacy and numeracy programmes and Dutch as a Second Language (NT2) programmes, providing a separate framework of level descriptors for each. For Dutch literacy and numeracy programmes, this is the Standards and Exit Qualifications for Adult Education (Standaarden en eindtermen volwasseneneducatie); for Dutch as a Second Language programmes, it is the NT2 Framework (Raamwerk NT22). NT2 programmes funded under the WEB are not open to second language learners who have not yet completed their civic integration programme. Adult education is offered through the nationwide network of Regional Training Centres (ROC) and by commercial providers. With effect from 2015, libraries and civil-society and volunteer organisations can qualify to receive funding for adult education, provided it conforms to the statutory frameworks and level descriptors.

Adult education mainly targets people who have difficulty with basic literacy, numeracy and digital skills. Adult education programmes funded under the WEB are intended to improve self-reliance in the target group and align with the level required for admission to vocational education, designated in the Netherlands as 2F (comparable to B1 for second language learners). This level can be regarded as that which a person needs to be a fully functional member of society. It is defined in the Reference Framework for Literacy and Numeracy (Referentiekader taal en rekenen), which is the statutory framework setting out literacy and numeracy guidelines for the Dutch education sector as a whole.


Target group

The primary target group for adult education is people who have difficulty with basic literacy, numeracy and digital skills, and more in particular the 1.3 million Dutch people between the ages of 16 and 65 with low literacy skills. In recent years, the Netherlands has rolled out a number of national action plans for this group. These include the Low Literacy Action Plan 2012–2015 (Actieplan Laaggeletterdheid 2012-2015) and Count on Skills (Tel Mee met Taal), which was launched in 2016. Count on Skills ended in 2019, but was renewed for the period 2020–2024. New ambitions were formulated for this follow-up approach (2020–2024) in March 2019. Click here to read more. 


Count on Skills

The Count on Skills action programme is a joint initiative of the Ministries of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), Social Affairs and Employment (SZW), Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK). In the period 2020–2024, the government will allocate €425 million to boost efforts to combat and prevent low literacy. The renewed programme will focus on making appreciable progress towards a higher skill level in the Netherlands in the years ahead. One of the aims is to reach more people, especially those with Dutch as their first language. The role of municipalities will also be strengthened with additional resources and a new support programme. Administrative agreements in this regard were concluded between the national government and the Association of Netherlands Municipalities on 9 September 2019. In addition, the follow-up approach will devote attention to improving digital skills and providing a better insight into the quality of available courses.


Regional approach

Up until 2015, Dutch government adult education resources were allocated to municipalities individually; since 2015, they have been allocated instead to the 35 national labour market regions, in which the constituent municipalities work together to develop a joint education plan. Regions and the municipalities within them are thus able to tailor adult education to their local context and specific policy priorities in areas such as labour market guidance, welfare, civic participation and preventing social exclusion.


Adult general secondary education (VAVO)

Adults aged 18 and over who wish to obtain their general secondary education (AVO) certificate can enrol in adult general secondary education (VAVO). VAVO programmes are regulated by the WEB, but have been administered by the central government since 2013. This aside, adult education is a responsibility of the Dutch municipalities. Since 1 January 2015, the aim has been for municipalities to link their adult education policy to other issues in their social domain, such as… The idea is that a regional approach facilitates tailored solutions, thus enabling more adults to achieve greater independence.

1 Comparable to what is referred to in Europe as vocational education and training (VET).


Organisation What are they doing Web adress

The expertisecentrum beroepsonderwijs (ecbo) develops, collects and disseminates knowledge about and for vocational education. Ecbo has a large collection of interesting studies such as "Canon beroepsonderwijs" with thematic articles on various issues in the vocational and adult education. You will find on public knowledge about vocational education and adult education.
Het begint met taal

This national organisation is dedicated to help foreigners in learning the Dutch language. With the aim to contribute to increased independence and opportunity in our society. Meanwhile, about a hundred other organisations are affiliated. The support consists of promoting expertise through meetings, trainings and workshops. The orgaisation is also working on product development, communication, consultancy, lobbying and (policy) influence.
Koninklijke Bibliotheek

Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB), the national library of the Netherlands, brings people and information together. To that end, the KB makes the library collection-the Netherlands visible, sustainable and practicable. The free access to this common ownership of publically funded libraries ensures people are given new ideas and will be able to continue on the basis of each other's insights. This network of libraries is a source for research and helps people to become better skilled, smarter and more creative. The KB assumes a central position in this network

Leren en werken

The programme 'Leren en Werken' aims to strengthen the links between education, training market, labor market and labor market opportunities. Spearheads are promoting active learning and the use of the Skill Certificate (EVC). To this end, all labor market regions are formed one or more Learning and working desks.
MBO Raad

The MBO Raad is the Netherlands Association of VET Colleges. The association represents all government-funded colleges for secondary vocational education and training and adult education in the Netherlands.

Movisie is the Netherlands centre for social development. Their mission is to promote the participation and independence of citizens by supporting and advising professional organisations, volunteer organisations and government institutions.

The NRTO, Dutch Council of Training and Education, is the umbrella trade association of private training and education providers in the Netherlands.
SBCM Arbeidsmarkt- en opleidingsfonds voor de sector sociale werkvoorziening. Het fonds richt zich met al zijn activiteiten op het verkrijgen en behouden van passend, zo regulier mogelijk en duurzaam werk voor medewerkers van sociale werkplaatsen.
Steunpunt VE Works for all parties in the adult education as providers, municipalities, private providers, community organizations, etc. Steunpunt VE supports them in the adoption of legislative measures.

Since 2003 the Expertise Centre (Stichting Expertisecentrum has been working on the use of multimedia for adults with a low level of education. The programs are specifically aimed at the wishes, requirements and backgrounds of lower educated adults and of people with insufficient proficiency in the Dutch language (L1 and L2). Our focus is not on formal education. aims at individual adults in non-formal and informal settings.

Stichting Learn for Life Learn for Life is a network of local, regional and national organizations active in the broad field of non-formal education and a platform for exchanging and deepening of experiences on adult learning from the perspective of European policy on a life learning.
Stichting Lezen en Schrijven The Reading & Writing Foundation devotes its attention to 1.3 million Dutch citizens who, due to literacy-related problems, are unable to participate fully within society. It also cares for children who are at risk for a future with low literacy skills.




Postbus 1585 5200 BP 's-Hertogenbosch

+31 (0)73 68 00 800