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The school with no classes, no classrooms and no curriculum.

We start with you. What do you want to learn? What are your talents, interests, and ambitions? You can use everything in the world that’s worthwhile to investigate, make or develop as your personal starting point for learning. Your personal coach will support and supervise your learning process. At Agora we traded courses, timetables, classes, and tests for challenges, collaboration and coaching by teachers.

netherlands school without homework

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About the innovation

The basics...

At Agora, we believe that school has to be a good mix between:

Harvard University ... a place where all the knowledge of the world is within reach.

A Buddhist monastery ... where you feel comfortable and at ease andwhere you discover what is valuable to you in life.

A creative laboratory ... where you can make and try everything you can imagine: painting, welding, graphicdesign, 3D printing...from cooking to programming to making a robot: if you canimagine it, you can make it.

A marketplace … where you can see new things, meet and inspire each other, debate and interact.

Disneyland … a place where you feel happy, amazed and above all: welcome, supported andchallenged by the staff!!

A day at Agora

At Agora we have a simple daily structure. Within this structure, your coach teaches you to plan your challenges and other activities. Coaches start at 8 in the morning. Students start at 9 with a ‘dagstart’ (start of the day). This takes half an hour, and it’s all about interacting with other students about working together, or for instance debating about topical subjects.After the ‘dagstart’ everybody has their own agenda. After the lunch break, we have half an hour of silence, so everybody can do their obligatory reading. Most of your days end at 3pm. It’s possible and sometimes necessary to stay longer for instance to visit physical education.

> We start with you. What do you want to learn? What are your talents, interests, and ambitions? You can use everything in the world that’s worthwhile to investigate, make or develop as your personal starting point for learning. Your personal coach will support and supervise your learning process. At Agora we traded courses, timetables, classes, and tests for challenges, collaboration and coaching by teachers.

> Challenges are your personal questions, problems, things you want to learn or know, research or make. To start a challenge you have to be well prepared. Good preparation is half the battle. You and your coach decide what the end result of your challenge will be and answer questions like: What are you going to learn during this challenge? Who are you going to collaborate with to achieve a great result? How long will your challenge take? Of course if necessary your coach and other students will be there to help you with this.

> After your preparation, you present your plan for your challenge. During this presentation, you explain who might be able to help you in the various stages of the challenge to come. You explain where and how you expect to get information and knowledge. If this goes well you can start your challenge. During this execution phase, you keep track of your progress. You write down how you found information and which information you found where and how. If you’re making something you can also add pictures or videos to show and explain the progress. You, for instance, explain the difficulties and problems you encountered. You also explain how you overcome them. And of course, you write down what you want to achieve tomorrow.

> At the end of the challenge you present your end product. There are lots of ways to do this. You can make a video, a sculpture or painting to show off what you learned. Maybe you will invite us to come to a stable because you want to show us what you learned about horses in practice. Your parents, other students, and your coach are all invited for your presentation.

> After this, you have a ‘review- talk’ with your coach. You reflect on how your challenge went, which skills you improved and how you can use these during your next challenge.

Personal workspace and coach group

Your coaching group consists of a maximum of 17 other children of different age and levels. At your coaching group you have a personal workspace which you can arrange to your own taste. This means there is no walking to a different classroom every 50 minutes, instead you work at your personal workspace. Do you like variety? We also have rooms to collaborate and have meetings in. We even have silence rooms, where you can study in silence. We have workspaces where you can cook, do carpentry, painting, metalworking, or program a robot, etc. We also have volunteers who offer inspirational sessions which you can join, and we love it when you visit people and companies outside our school.

Student, coach, and course expert

At Agora you as a student have a personal coach. The two of you make your personal learning plan. Making adjustments to this plan is a continued process. You are in a coaching group with 17 other students and a coach. At least once a week you have a talk with your coach. Aside from this ‘official’ talk you see and talk to your coach every day because you are in the same room every day. When you have been at Agora for a couple of years and start preparing for the national exams you start working with our subject experts. They are teachers who support you for a specific subject.

Parents have an important role at Agora. We expect them to help on a voluntary basis. This could be anything, like helping in one of our workplaces (kitchen, carpentry, makerspace etc.). Or helping us by driving students to places they want to visit. Lots of parents offer internships, give workshops or inspiration sessions on their personal hobbies, interests, passion or occupation. Parents share these personal hobbies, interests, passions, and occupations with our students. This is great because schools can’t be experts at everything.

Impact & scalability

Agora redefines the idea of school in the traditional sense, by providing students the freedom to explore their own passions and provide personalised coaching to help students throughout their learning journey. Agora is continuously adapting to scale elements of their model within the Netherlands and abroad.

This innovation is already scaling both in the country of origin and abroad and I believe it has a high potential to scale further. It looks that this innovation can be applied in any context in any country.

The personalised learning here is great. Students have the freedom, space and resources to explore their own interests. The possible creations and outputs are endless.

Spread of the innovation

Similar innovations.

netherlands school without homework

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Where the school is without classrooms! Netherlands’ School sets new benchmarks in Innovative Learning

This school in netherlands has the formula for holistic development - no classes, curriculum. setting new standards of truly innovative learning, the school allows the child to choose..

School with no classes, curriculum believes in learning more than teaching

We all dream of schools which are open spaces of learning, filled with joys and laughter and possibly no books! Well, Netherlands has found the formula. A school in Netherlands has no classes, no classrooms and no curriculum. Yes, you read that right! The educational institution does not believe in limiting learning with education. The student can choose what he wishes to learn and take his own unique developmental journey.

Break from the conventional? True. The Agora School in Roermond, Netherlands has 250 students and a long waiting list. School's entire approach is centred around projects as it focuses on "learning, not teaching". Students at Agora range from 12 to 18 years in age and each of them is given control over their own educational journey. They are able to explore and learn about topics and things which interest them.

Students can choose from diverse subjects such as German mountain guides, Mongolian horses, blacksmithing, Harry Potter patronuses, tables and skateboards. Each staff member at school is responsible for nearly 17 students each. They have to ensure that there are tangible results and genuine development. Staff also works with each student on ways to continue developing the learning journey. 

Rob Houben, Manager of the Agora School in Roermond, the Netherlands said, "We get around 70 requests a week from all over the world from people wanting to come and see what we do here." He told online publishing platform Medium.com that "And I turn most of them down, I just don't have the time to do all that!".  Houben can also be called the school's principal or headteacher. 

Houben describes Agora "as a blend of a university (where you have knowledge), a Buddhist monastery (where you can think), a theme park (where you can play) and a communal marketplace (where you can trade and swap things)". 

Students at school are encouraged to customize their desk. A student has the front of a car attached to his desk which was made with the use of local scrapyard. Students say what they enjoy most about Agora is "the freedom to explore and learn whatever they want".

Houben told, "People look strangely at us. They think because of their school experience you have to have things like four mathematics lessons a week, but in the Netherlands, that isn't the case. The government only asks you to bring students to a certain level within a certain time period."

Agora permits ubiquitous mobile phone and Internet use. "All our children have Chromebooks for free, so they (students) have access to the Internet all day. We allow them to use their phones, all day, because you need to learn how not to use your phone in certain moments. And you don't learn that when you put your phone in a locker or container because then you have to have a container your whole life," according to Houben. Agora tracks the students' progress through Egodact which is a piece of software designed by three students.

Get latest news and live updates,   Latest Education News , updates from Education Minister, CBSE News and other Board Results

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netherlands school without homework

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Composite image of children and lines saying 'I will not follow rules'

Rutger Bregman: ‘What if we give children the freedom to play and learn on their own?’

A school with no classrooms, homework or grades encourages creativity and imagination, rather than an ability to sit still and nod

Time to reset: more brilliant ideas to remake the world

I n many places around the world, education has become something to be endured. A new generation is learning to run a rat race where the main metrics of success are your résumé and your pay cheque – a generation less inclined to colour outside the lines, less inclined to dream or to dare, to fantasise or explore.

Can schools operate on a wholly different view of human nature? What if we give children much more freedom to play and learn on their own?

The thing that moved me the most while I was researching my latest book was visiting such a school in the Netherlands . This school, Agora, relies on the intrinsic motivation of the children. There are no classes or classrooms, no homework or grades, no tests, no timetables. There is almost no hierarchy within the staff. Often, there is no hierarchy at all – the students are the ones in charge.

At Agora, children of all ages, academic levels and socioeconomic backgrounds are mixed together. Difference is perceived as normal, and what I quickly noticed was the lack of bullying. Bullying is often regarded as part and parcel of being a kid. Not so, say sociologists, who have compiled extensive research on the places where it is endemic, such as British boarding schools (the kind that inspired William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies). And little wonder: these schools resemble prisons. You can’t leave, you have to earn a place in a rigid hierarchy, and there’s a strict division between pupils and staff.

At the moment, we spend billions encouraging our biggest talents to rise up the career ladder, but once at the top they often ask themselves what it’s all for. Recent research in 47 developed countries found that a quarter of workers doubt the importance of their work. Most of these “meaningless jobs” are in the private sector – in banks, ad agencies and law firms. Meanwhile, politicians tell us we need to be more educated, earn more money and bring the economy more “growth”.

But what do all those degrees really represent? Are they proof of creativity and imagination, or of an ability to sit still and nod? It’s like the philosopher Ivan Illich said decades ago: “School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.”

Schools like Agora prove there is a different way. The question is not: can our kids handle the freedom? The question is: do we have the courage to give it to them?

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9 Things you Need to Know about starting Primary School in the Netherlands

Lucy Seip

Is your little one about to start primary school in the Netherlands? Or as it’s called out here the ‘Basisschool’. If you’ve just moved here with your soon to be 4 year old and are wondering how to navigate the early year’s education system in Holland or are just curious at how primary school compares to the UK then look no further. Here is a list of 9 things you need to know about starting primary school in the Netherlands. 

#1 Primary school in the Netherlands: Kids start school the day after they turn 4

This is perhaps the biggest difference to the UK education system. There is no single intake date. As soon as your child turns 4 they are welcome to join Group 1 (the first year of primary school). However it must be noted that school is not  verplicht  compulsory until the child turns 5. And most schools allow you to be flexible with the school hours if you think that your child is finding it too much. Also holidays from Dutch schools can be taken during term time without issue as they are not legally required to be at school.

primary school in the Netherlands

#2 Primary school in Holland: It’s not full time

This was a strange one for me to get my head around. Having experienced primary school myself in the UK where I was expected at school for 9am and was picked up by my parents at 3:15, Monday to Friday. In the Netherlands, most primary schools can pick their own hours which follow a similar pattern. There are 3 full days (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday) and two half days (Wednesday and Friday). Some primary schools, however, extend the half days to three-quarter days as the child progresses up the year groups. So instead of finishing at 12:30, your child would then finish at 2pm.

I actually struggle with this timetable as Wednesday and Fridays just feel like really long days with the boys finishing at 12:30. Having said that though, almost everybody plays a sport outside of school. Therefore the two half-day afternoons are normally taken up with swimming lessons and football/tennis training.

It means that it’s a lot easier to plan a weekend away with the schools finishing so early. It also gives the kids a break, because being in school full time so young must be absolutely exhausting (many adults struggle with a Monday to Friday 9-5 routine and that’s only two hours more than what is expected from a 5-year-old).

#3 Primary school in the Netherlands: They come home for lunch

And if having two half days off a week isn’t enough to recharge the batteries, then coming home every day for lunch certainly will! Yes, you heard that right, the kids come home for lunch – for an hour! We live walking distance to the school so it’s not actually a hardship to walk back and forth 4 times a day. But it does mean that your days at home are actually really short. I actually had to give up ironing as by the time I got the ironing board out and started on the pile I had to be back at school again to pick up the boys (to be honest I’ve never done it but this sounds like a great excuse to use ?).

For the parents that work there is always a TSO, a 3rd party organization that comes into the school and supervises the lunch hour. There is no canteen and so packed lunches are needed. This isn’t free though, ours costs 2.50 euros. I have been known on occasions to ship the kids off with a packed lunch to school just so I can GET SHIT DONE.

#4 Primary school in Holland: There are no lunchbox police

#5 primary school in the netherlands: kids wear mufti everyday.

There is NO school uniform. No last minute rush on the 31st of August looking for a white shirt and trousers that actually fit. No panic washing on Sunday night. No labeling! Just normal clothes. The exact same clothes that my boys wear on the weekend. The biggest downside is the amount of jeans and trainers that we go through. I don’t think my boys own a pair of trousers without a hole in the knee.

When I tell my Dutch friends about school uniforms they find it hilarious. It’s a concept that they just can’t get their heads around, forcing everyone to look the same. I was always brought up to see that as the advantage of uniform, no one would be singled out for wearing the wrong thing. But what I’ve noticed in the Netherlands is that the whole idea of not fitting in isn’t a  thing.  The Dutch have a saying ‘ Doe maar normaal dan doe je al gek genoeg’  which translates to just be yourself because that’s crazy enough.

elementary school in the Netherlands

#6 Primary school in Holland: The first two years are just play based

Probably very similar to a UK pre-school rather than the first two years of a primary school, Group 1 and Group 2 are just about learning through play. They start to learn the alphabet in Group 2 (equivalent to year 1) but will only learn about half of the letters. The ‘real’ learning begins in Group 3, in which they will finish learning the alphabet and then start to put together letters into words.

The most important part of the early years education is social development. When you get the school report at the end of the year there is a whole page on the social and emotional development of your child (the report itself is 2 pages so you can see how important this is!).

primary school in the Netherlands

#7 Primary school in the Netherlands: Repeating a year is NOT a big deal

I don’t ever seem to remember anybody at my primary school in the Netherlands repeating a year, nor being moved up for that matter. If a child was struggling then they received extra work. And if a child was doing really well, then they also received extra work.

In Holland, it works a little differently. If your child is finding the work a bit too challenging or isn’t quite ready to sit still and concentrate for a period of time, then it will be suggested that he or she  blijft zitten-  stays sitting. Not repeating the year, or being moved down a year group. Just stays where they are for another year. And because of the way the Dutch intake work there is normally a variety of ages in one year group, meaning that the groups are based on ability rather than age. Every year since my boys have started school, they have had two or three classmates who ‘stayed sitting’ and have had a few new ones that have joined. And it’s absolutely not a big deal. It’s actually a relief. Knowing that your child is at a level where they no longer have to struggle means that their confidence rockets. Definitely an advantage of the Dutch school system.

netherlands school without homework

#8 Primary school in Holland: Kids cycle to and from school alone!

Ok, so it’s not expected that your 4 years old will cycle to and from school all by themselves. But from about Group 5 (year 4) it’s not unusual to see kids arriving at school on their bikes unaccompanied. They park them up in the designated bike racks, lock them and deposit the key in a special tub in the classroom.

All Dutch kids receive bike lessons at school from about 6 years old and more importantly they learn the rules of the road.

netherlands school without homework

Because of all the designated cycle paths, biking to school is incredibly safe. So safe in fact almost no one wears a helmet. I can hear your gasps now but cycling to Dutch people is just like walking to us. In fact, from about 9 years old Dutch kids go to school trips on their bikes, cycling as a whole class, with fluorescent yellow vests but no head protection!

My daughter, who was born in the Netherlands, learned to walk at 1 and ride a bike without stabilizers at 2 so I can see where the confidence comes from. Kids are cycling almost as long as they have been walking.

#9 Primary school in the Netherlands: There is NO homework

Perhaps my most favorite thing about Dutch education is the kids having no homework. When we first moved here I remember chatting with the headteacher about my son starting. When I asked how much homework to expect she looked at me with a shocked expression and said  “Homework?! There’s no homework, when he gets home from school we expect him to go out and play!”

There is not even any compulsory reading!! Of course, I still read to my kids every night but the fact that we don’t HAVE to makes it feel a lot less like a chore.

netherlands school without homework

My son is now in Group 5 (Year 4) and the most ‘homework’ we have had throughout his time at school, has been to prepare a book report. Though I have heard the rumors that we may be expecting proper homework this year but so far nothing!

This “no homework” policy gives kids unbelievable freedom when they get home from school. They can go straight out to play (no need to get changed as they’re in school uniform remember) and just be kids. No responsibility, no deadlines, no worrying that because mummy isn’t so good at maths they won’t be able to complete their work!!

They are children for such a short period of time and the Dutch seem to have realized that and are happy just to let kids be kids for that little bit longer, a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.

So these are the 9 things you need to know about starting primary school in the Netherlands. Is there anything we missed out on? Let us know in the comments below!

Lucy Seip

The Gif of the boy abusing the other kid on the soccer field is truly triggering since bullying is a real problem in Dutch schools! Also, don’t expect them to do much about it but instead call it “directness” even if your child is being tortured daily!

Oh gosh that’s terrifying to hear about the bullying. What options did you feel you had? Any meetings with administrators? Switch schools?

okay… my english is not so very good, but I can try it! you may know, on my Dutch primary school I learned Dutch in the second class (groep 2) now I’m in the first class of secundary school. its really fun! but I can say: on my school in the Netherlands, nobody go to home on lunchtime! why? there are pupils, they go by schoolbus and live 30 kilometres from school. I was one of them. and it costs nothing! I wanted to clarify that. thanks for reading!

Beautifull written and correct. And for reacting on the bullying, yes bullying is there but any school with or without uniform has this. The school and sportclubs have policies for bullying and there are special cursus schools can give in classes and for the special kid who is being bullyed. Like ‘Rots en water training”. And Judo or other specifiek sports can give the child tools, so that support ables the kid to react on the bullyers and defend him self, better now then when your older.

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COMMENTS

  1. Agora

    You can use everything in the world that’s worthwhile to investigate, make or develop as your personal starting point for learning. Your personal coach will support and supervise your learning process. At Agora we traded courses, timetables, classes, and tests for challenges, collaboration and coaching by teachers. Bookmark. HundrED 2022.

  2. Where the school is without classrooms! Netherlands’ School

    The Agora School in Roermond, Netherlands has 250 students and a long waiting list. School's entire approach is centred around projects as it focuses on "learning, not teaching". Students at Agora range from 12 to 18 years in age and each of them is given control over their own educational journey.

  3. Rutger Bregman: ‘What if we give children the freedom to play

    A school with no classrooms, homework or grades encourages creativity and imagination, rather than an ability to sit still and nod • Time to reset: more brilliant ideas to remake the world

  4. The Dutch school system for dummies: a guide from one parent

    In the first two years, kleuters (four and five-year-olds) are guided through a gradual transition from learning-by-playing to learning to read and write. In practice, this means that some children (those born in the summer or autumn) have a full two years at school before they go into group three (the “late” pupils). Ad by Refinery89.

  5. 9 Things you Need to Know about starting Primary School in

    In the Netherlands, most primary schools can pick their own hours which follow a similar pattern. There are 3 full days (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday) and two half days (Wednesday and Friday). Some primary schools, however, extend the half days to three-quarter days as the child progresses up the year groups. So instead of finishing at 12:30, your ...