Religious identity, religious education and rituals at Dutch cooperation schools

The research focuses on the religious dimension of the identity of and the religious education at Dutch primary schools that are known as so-called ‘cooperation schools’: schools that are a product of a merger between one or more schools for public (i.e. non-denominational) education and one or more schools for private (denominational) education. The merging private schools so far always concern protestant or catholic schools.

About this research

This research will describe how these schools view themselves with regard to the religious perspective of their identity, and how this perspective is realized in the organization of religious education at these particular schools. Besides results of theoretical research, results of empirical research will be presented. Attention will be paid to possible religious views on development of children, on (goals and contents of) education and to the motivation of the board to organize religious education the way it is organized. In the end, the focus will be on rituals in the religious education at these cooperation schools: what can be defined as rituals by teachers and what are the goals and contents of these special activities?

This research will map the field of cooperation schools in The Netherlands and their religious identity and religious education, especially the rituals. The duality of public and private education is still identifiable within a cooperation school. This means that a diversity of values concerning the (religious) education of students is brought together in one school. Not only in The Netherlands is this phenomenon recognizable: but in any pluralizing society different values contribute to, in this case, the population and the organization of schools; teachers, parents, board and students do not always share the same convictions and beliefs concerning the education and raising of children. This conflict leads to the following (research) question: How are (partly or entirely) conflicting values integrated in a school, especially concerning religious education?

In The Netherlands, the cooperation school and its board itself must organize the form and contents of the religious education for the different denominations. However, the question remains how this is done in practice? And what arguments are given for organizing this duality the way it is organized? What role can rituals play in the religious education at these schools? The central research question, therefore, is:

In what way is the religious dimension of the identity of Dutch primary cooperation schools shaped, and how is this organized and expressed in religious education and rituals?


  1. How is the religious dimension of the identity of primary cooperation schools formulated and motivated?
  2. How is religious education of these schools motivated and organized?
  3. What is the teachers' and principals' perstective of these schools on the religious development of students?
  4. How do rituals in educational settings relate to the religious dimension of the identity of primary cooperation schools?
  5. How can rituals in educational settings be valued in the light of the dialogue about existential themes of students?


Erik Renkema


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