Discovering social inequality: Dutch educational research in the post-war era

Nelleke Bakker*, H.T.A. Amsing

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Between the 1940s and 1960s across Western Europe a spirit of reform along comprehensive lines manifested itself in secondary education, aiming at a reduction of the existing social inequality of educational chances. These reforms are said to be rooted in new policies and in new approaches in educational studies. This article explores the relationship between educational reform and educational science in a country, the Netherlands, which did not "go comprehensive". Though, by the late 1950s, social inequality of educational chances, the waste of working-class talent, and the impossibility of a fair selection at the age of 12 had been discovered by Dutch educationists, equal chances were not mentioned as a target in the new Secondary Education Act (1963). Its focus was directed at the development of individual talent, regardless of class, and selection continued to be applied at a very early age. This policy was even approved of by the social democrats, who elsewhere acted as protagonists of comprehensive schooling. They held on to the deeply rooted idea of two different, class-bound kinds of pupils with different educational needs, the "intellectuals" and the "manuals", a message that had been spread for a long time by educational researchers themselves.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)315-333
    Number of pages18
    JournalPaedagogica Historica
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    • educational research
    • secondary education
    • comprehensive schooling
    • social inequality

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