By: Rhianna Wesson

Research in the field of sex education has pointed towards certain ideals and changes for education in schools. Inclusion, diversity, cultural beliefs. Less dependence on teachers’ personal beliefs, more circumstantial adaptation. These are some of the suggestions regularly made by experts to improve the quality of sex education provided in Dutch schools (Schutte et al. 2014; Naezer 2017; Krebbekx 2018).

But can these changes actually be implemented in real schools?

The European School in The Hague

If any school could implement these suggestions, it surely would be the European School The Hague (ESH). Established in 2012, ESH provides education to 1400 children aged 4 to 19, most of whose parents are employees of European Union institutions (ESH 2021a). ESH places a strong focus on achieving potential, challenging oneself, and finding solutions. With the core values of ambition, positivity, and respect, ESH prioritises teaching relationships, compassion, and understanding to its students through class, community, and extra-curriculars (ESH 2021b).

So what does ESH’s sex education curriculum look like? At ages 11 to 19 students receive education about boundaries and consent. This learning occurs in multiple different settings. Firstly, in weekly mentor lessons, the Leefstijl programme is used to develop the social emotional wellbeing of students, and topics such as relationships, consent, and boundaries can be discussed here. Sex education is offered as part of the integrated sciences, though these topics can also be discussed in the mentor lessons. One extracurricular activity is dedicated to support for LGBTQ+, GSA (Gender-Sexuality Alliance), run by students, is a safe space for the community and allies, and aims to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ community within ESH. For further support students can access a social-emotional wellbeing team consisting of a student well-being counsellor, school psychologist and school social worker (Leefstijl 2021).

Is this the way forward?

Seems pretty close to what the experts suggest, right? A broad approach to the topic, inclusive of different sexualities, multifaceted, and the students play an active role.

But… there’s a catch. Firstly, as has been mentioned, what ESH is able to provide to its students is not realistic for most schools. For example, part of this sex education provision uses a company called “Boomberoepsonderwijs” which creates educational tools and packages for schools. This includes “Leefstijl,” a package which aims to teach social emotional skills like getting along well, and how to relate to others and in groups (Leefstijl 2021). These packages must be bought and are not government funded or subsidised.

Secondly, oftentimes the science-oriented sex education given as part of “integrated sciences” (one aspect of ESH’s programme) does not sufficiently include topics such as relationships, boundaries, consent, LGBTQ+ relationships and sex, consent, and cultural nuances (Naezar et al. 2017; Krebbekz 2019).

Thirdly, while this school has a lot of resources, it has a somewhat small scope of impact. In focussing solely on children of workers for the European union, and being a private school, ESH is an example of what only a small percentage of the population in The Hague would experience. Thus, the downfall of the system at ESH is that it is exclusive, and the extent to which the teaching transcends the boundaries of the school into the wider community, is unknown. All of which tells us that, unfortunately, even the best resourced schools can struggle to get sex education “right” according to experts.


ESH (2021a). “Welcome to our school.” Europese School Den Haag. At

ESH (2021b). “About.” Europese School Den Haag. At

Krebbekx, W. J. P. (2018). “Making sex, moving difference: An ethnography of sexuality and diversity in Dutch schools.” UvA-DARE.

Leefstijl (2021). “Leefstijl – Sociaal-emotionele vaardigheiden.” Boom Beroepsonderwijs. At

Naezer, M., E. Rommes and W. Jansen (2017). “Empowerment through sex education? Rethinking paradoxical policies.” Sex Education 17(6), 712–728.

Schutte, L., R. M. Meertens, F. E. F. Mevissen, H. Schaalma, S. Meijer and G. Kok (2014). “Long Live Love. The implementation of a school-based sex-education program in the Netherlands.” Health Education Research 29(4), 583–597.

Are Experts’ Suggestions for Sex Education Attainable for Schools in the Netherlands?

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