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Second foreign school controversy shakes Dutch education

Dutch Education Minister Arie Slob has threatened to withdraw funding from a primary school for foreign children in The Hague that has been at the centre of accusations of financial mismanagement. It is the second foreign school controversy in the Netherlands this month.

Published: July 13, 2019, 9:45 am

    The Hague

    The board at the city’s Algemene Hindoe Basisschool (General Hindu Elementary) is accused of misappropriating cash meant for educational materials and spending it on transport.

    Education inspectors also criticised the standard of teaching at the school as “well below standard”, particularly in the early years. Slob has said the ministry will stop the school’s funding unless it replaces the governing board.

    The move against the Hindu school comes in the wake of the ministry’s efforts to force the resignation of the board at the Cornelius Haga Lyceum, Amsterdam’s only Muslim secondary school.

    Dutch intelligence and security service AIVD had warned earlier that the Muslim school in Amsterdam was preparing to devote half of its curriculum to Salafist doctrine, causing an outcry.

    The AIVD meanwhile said it had underestimated the social impact its official report earlier this year on the Amsterdam Islamic high school Cornelius Haga Lyceum, according to AIVD director Dick Schoof.

    Schoof told the Dutch daily, the Volkskrant: “We have to conclude that we did not sufficiently control, contain, the social dynamics. That we did not sufficiently take the feelings in the Muslim community into account.”

    According to Schoof, the AIVD should have insisted that the information in the official report not be made public. “We do no benefit from the disclosure of confidential communications”, he said. But the national coordinator for counter-terrorism NCTV and the municipality of Amsterdam were allowed to disclose the information, he added.

    Schoof understands why the NCTV and Amsterdam decided to go public with the information “in the political-administrative constellation that emerged”, he said to the newspaper. “But I would have preferred that we could have continued our work in peace. Our aim was not to elicit a discussion about this school.”

    On Wednesday it was announced that the supervisory committee on the intelligence services CTIVD will investigate how the AIVD provided information about the school to other government agencies.

    The Cornelius Haga Lyceum denies teaching Salafist doctrine as part of its curriculum, but in an investigation by the Education Inspectorate there was evidence of financial mismanagement at the school.

    The Inspectorate concluded that the school did not encourage intolerance, and also does not impede integration into society. The Inspectorate instead found that the school board’s policies and actions are harmful to students, because “they did not distance themselves from people with a controversial reputation”.

    The Lyceum does not provide sufficient citizenship education, the Inspectorate also noted.

    The Cornelius Haga Lyceum can only stay open the upcoming school year if the school directors are replaced. If a new interim board is appointed in the first weeks of the new school year, the pupils of the Islamic high school in Amsterdam can go to school as usual, Minister Slob for Primary and Secondary Education announced on Thursday.

    AIVD discovered that school employees were in contact with promotors of Salafism. Moreover, the school director was found guilty of self-enrichment and conflicts of interest, the Ministry of Education said in a statement.

    “All students deserve good education. Regardless of the type of school they attend. There is maladministration at the Cornelius Haga Lyceum. In addition, the directors do not do enough to promote citizenship at the school. That is why we need a new board”, Slob told the media.

    The Hindu school in The Hague have tried to persuade the court to block the publication of the Education inspectors’ official report. The school’s head, Edu Dumasy, said he was facing a “chaotic situation” when he took over in February.

    “On my first day there were five fights in the school playground,” he explained.

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