The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy with a King as head of state and a Prime Minister as head of the government. The parliament is bicameral, consisting of the Senate (Eerste Kamer) with 75 members and the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) with 150 members. The Netherlands is divided into twelve provinces. The responsibilities of the government and the provinces are laid down in the Constitution.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) has the political responsibility for the educational system and is bound by national legislation: the Higher Education and Research Act (Wet op Hoger onderwijs en Wetenschappelijk onderzoek, WHW) and the Student Grants Act 2000 (Wet studiefinanciering 2000, WSF 2000). The WSF was last amended in 2007, and an important result of this is that since 1 September 2007, students have been able to take their student grants abroad under certain conditions in order to obtain a higher education degree there.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is responsible to a large extent for the financing of the education system, defines the general education policy and specifies the admission requirements, structure and objectives of the education system on general lines. In addition, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the Ministry of Economic Affairs are involved in the content of higher education. At all levels (primary, secondary and higher education), there is a general trend towards fewer rules and regulations, so that institutions can take responsibility themselves for the implementation of government policy.
The Dutch education system consists of 8 years of primary education, 4, 5 or 6 years of secondary education (depending on the type of school) and 2 to 6 years of higher education (depending on the type of education and the specialisation). Both public and private institutions exist at all levels of the education system; the private institutions are in most cases based on religious or ideological principles.