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Educational Pluralism-A Historical Study of So-Called "Pillarization" in the Netherlands, Including a Comparison with Some Developments in South African Education

Johan Sturm, Leendert Groenendijk, Bernard Kruithof and Julialet Rens
Comparative Education
Vol. 34, No. 3 (Nov., 1998), pp. 281-297
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3099832
Page Count: 17
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Educational Pluralism-A Historical Study of So-Called
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Abstract

Recently, modern democratic governments have been facing religious and other minorities demanding state funding of separate schools. A system of completely equal treatment of both state and denominational schools has existed in the Netherlands since 1920 and is firmly rooted in the Dutch history of the previous centuries. It may be of interest to know how this pluralistic system of 'pillars'-as it has been called in Dutch historiography-came into being and how it has functioned ever since, even until the present day, when 'pillarization' is still a prominent feature of the Dutch educational domain, despite strong secularising and post-modern tendencies. This paper describes the historical roots of the Dutch pillarized educational system, i.e. of this remarkable subcultural segmentation of education-and of society in general-on the basis of different religious or philosophical views. In the process of pillarization a crucial part was played by Dutch Protestants. With South Africa being heavily influenced by these Protestants and South African educational history running partly parallel to Dutch educational history during the 19th century, it seems worthwhile to examine why pillarisation did not occur in the southern hemisphere. In order to understand the process of pillarization it is necessary to look well into the history of the Netherlands since the 17th century. Relevant similarities between the South African and the Dutch developments up to 1900 are presented as well. At the time when the Dutch system of educational 'pillars'-or 'voluntary apartheid' as it has recently been called-fully developed towards the end of the 19th century, South African educational history, however, took a completely different course towards compulsory racial apartheid. The present revolutionary changes in South Africa, however, seem to entail some new interesting parallels between the educational situations in both countries. To substantiate this, the paper highlights some relevant features of 20th century South African educational developments, before analysing the present Dutch situation and giving the reasons for the permanent strength of the pillars. Not only are the old pillars still standing firmly, but new minorities of immigrants have also discovered the uses of the system of pillarization for identity-building and cultural emancipation. To conclude, the paper addresses the question of whether pillarization in education can and should be adopted outside the Netherlands.

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