On 6 November 1919, exactly a hundred years ago, Europe’s (and possibly, the world’s) first radio broadcast took place. This happened from one of the world’s first radio broadcast stations (PCGG), established at the Beukstraat in The Hague, home of electrical engineer Hanso Idzerda. An important historical fact! Interestingly enough, few inhabitants of the The Hague are aware of this today, let alone that they would take pride in it.
This blog is about The Hague as so-called majority-minority (or ‘superdiverse’) city in the Netherlands. Compared to the other three big cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht), The Hague shows less connection between neighborhoods, less social cohesion and more self-relativism among its inhabitants. Seen in the light of The Hague’s long history of segregation, these facts form a unique mix in our country that raises interesting challenges to the local municipality and educational institutes.
We will briefly examine two grass-roots initiatives that try to address these local educational challenges: Platform Urban Education 070 (PUE070) and Schilderswijk & Escamp University. But first, a brief history.
History of segregation
One could say that segregation is in the DNA of The Hague, but this sounds a bit negative and pessimistic. The development of The Hague from country estate and lush hunting area of nobles to, subsequently, the major administrative center in Holland, the Netherlands and, in some periods, even Europe, started as a compromise between the contemporary major cities in the south of Holland (Delft, Dordrecht, Vlaardingen), competing for power in the 13th ,14th and 15th centuries.
The development of The Hague seems due to the fact that it was just a small village and, therefore, not a threat. Obviously, its status as administrative center and residence of the most influential nobles brought prosperity and growth to the village and its inhabitants. It started to attract the most gifted people, like craftsmen, artists, scientists, inventors and philosophers.
When nobility started building their residential palaces around the place where the 13th century Ridderzaal (the oldest building in the parliament) was built on the edge of a small lake in the dunes (later called the Hofvijver), an adjacent neighborhood of craftsmen and laborers arose and developed. The blueprint of the village and future city of The Hague was already formed: two (then literally) separated areas, one for the privileged and one for common people. Two communities depending upon each other but living in separate realities. In later centuries, when the town grew and new neighborhoods developed, this pattern repeated itself: the better-off mainly settled on the sand bars near the coast, whereas working class people were forced to build their houses and streets on the humid (and unhealthy) peat grounds between the sands and further inland. This
The Hague in 2019
Today, the Hague is the third-largest city in the Netherlands. It houses about 540.000 (2019; metropolitan area over one million) people and is rapidly growing. Recent years show an annual growth of (effectively) 6.000-7.000 people, mostly newcomers from abroad. The city is traditionally the seat of the cabinet, the States General, the Surpreme Court, and the Council of State of the Netherlands. Apart from that, it has many international institutes and courts, is one of the world’s most prominent UN-cities and bears the informal title “legal capital of the world” (also: city of peace and justice). However, it is not the capital of the Netherlands, which is Amsterdam.
The Hague has become a majority-minority city in recent times. This adds to the fact that the city is (still) highly segregated from a socioeconomic point of view; more than any other city in the Netherlands. Literally, the distance between the wealthiest and poorest is sometimes only a block. However, these neighborhoods hardly interact; they form different worlds.
Today, mainly people of non-western migration backgrounds, newcomers, EU- and non-EU workers from mid- and eastern Europe (like Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, Russia), refugees, status holders and families with roots in the former ‘West’ colonies of the Netherlands (Surinam, Dutch Antilles) populate the neighborhoods ‘on the peat grounds’. Schools in those neighborhoods are very mixed. The districts on the sandy, coastal side, contrariwise, are mostly populated by Dutch (white) upper (middle) class families and a big expat community, working for one of the cities’ embassies, international courts, international companies or 170+ NGO’s. Schools in these neighborhoods are predominantly white, internationally oriented and not seldom bilingual or serving a specific target group (French School, British School).
Year after year, the Onderwijsraad sounds the alarm bell about increasing inequality in Dutch education and society: the annual OESO-reports show that our country is not doing well at all in this respect. Needless to say: in a city like The Hague, this situation is even much more precarious. In this light, it is hopeful that there are local professionals that take actions to do something about the increasing inequality.
Platform Urban Education 070 (PUE070)
PUE070 is a platform in The Hague Area, initiated by two local primary and three secondary schools which are mostly situated in or near the aforementioned “peat” neighborhoods and in the city center. They saw their student population change rapidly in recent years. PUE070 wants to increase awareness among the school employees about the diverse backgrounds of the current students, that some children have better starting positions in life than others, and that inclusive pedagogy and didactics are essential. Creating a safe learning environment in which every student and every teacher feels at home and share their personal stories. The platform PUE070 facilitates (among other things) professionalization, knowledge sharing and mutual workplace visits. The initiative involves research, systematic monitoring and evaluation and is supported by the local and national governments.
This initiative has started in 2014 and aims at the most studious primary school children in two of the poorest city districts. It concerns a weekend school for those eager to learn, who would otherwise easily be overlooked by their regular schools. It aims to challenge them, make them aware of future career opportunities and help them to increase their chances of a successful study career. Based on a project to promote social mobility by researchers of The Hague university of Applied Sciences (THUAS) and other organizations, this initiative is also supported by the municipality of The Hague.
Being selected for either Schilderswijk or Escamp University comes with strings attached.100% participation is highly encouraged. You have to be really motivated to persevere going to an additional school on Saturdays. The curriculum contains challenging assignments, pays much attention to the acquirement of so-called 21st century skills (like communication, collaboration, creating a social network, critical thinking and creativity). Sporting and excursions are also part of the activities (favorites are Leiden University and Technical University Delft, both near The Hague).
Conclusion: future challenges for The Hague?
As Fukkink (2016) states: majority-minority cities typically show below-average school performance compared to their environments, but we should stop seeing this as a problem.
The solution lies in the city itself, and all it has to offer in terms of culture, organizations, dynamics, (potential) cohesion, pride etc. The curricula in the schools can be enriched and livened up by incorporating this couleur locale. In a city like The Hague, that is said to ‘lack arrogance’ (which, by the way, can also be viewed as a virtue), this is a real challenge. The Hague’s voice seems not so loud as that of others; the city is sometimes easily overlooked in the competitive match that seems to be ongoing between the major cities in the Netherlands. Its inhabitants are frequently subject of negative stereotyping.
The only way to cope with these issues and improve self-esteem is to make the story of The Hague an inclusive, cohesive, inevitable and authentic one. The two initiatives as described in this blog show elements that sound very hopeful in that respect. In line with that, raising awareness of the city’s interesting history, its national and international merits and cultural treasures should be of high priority.
by Edward van Os
 Majority-minority or “superdiverse” cities (or communities) are cities (or communities) without a majority group; there are only minorities left. For example, in The Hague, the share of the traditional ‘ethnically Dutch’ majority was only 45,3% on 1 January 2019 and, therefore, has changed into a minority (https://denhaag.incijfers.nl/jive?cat_open_code=c923&lang=nl). Some people are critical about this qualification for several reasons, one of them being the focus on ethnicity in comparison to other dimensions like socioeconomic status.
 This is a personal observation of the author of this blog, supported by articles about the city. For example, Arjan van Veelen, a correspondent of the online newspaper De Correspondent, wrote a series of articles in which The Hague figures as a place where every group in The Netherlands is represented (take Tram 11 and you meet the whole country), and a city of extremes (later, he compared the city and its segregation with that of New Orleans, where he also worked and lived). (https://decorrespondent.nl/5472/wie-wil-weten-hoe-het-ervoor-staat-met-nederland-moet-het-een-trambestuurder-vragen/1584192104352-ff4cc32a; https://decorrespondent.nl/5369/hoe-on-tevreden-is-nederland-echt/1554372698879-3980c876; https://decorrespondent.nl/5671/heel-veel-nederlanders-hebben-het-als-dit-zo-doorgaat-gevoel-kijk-maar-in-ypenburg/1641804353761-7ea8b89d).
 Researcher Anja Vink compares The Hague to Chicago qua socioeconomical segregation in this interview: https://www.sp.nl/achtergrond/anja-vink-den-haag-heeft-hetzelfde-segregatieniveau-als-chicago.
 See also the report about Schilderswijk & Escamp University that addresses the huge difference in opportunities schoolchildren have in the city’s various districts and neighborhoods.
 The list is long. Some examples of the 17th Century alone are: Jan Steen, Paulus Potter, Jan van Gooijen, Constantijn & Christaan Huijgens, Benedictus de Spinoza, René Descartes.
 The Hague historically has two subdialects: the ‘posh’ one of the sand grounds, and the ‘common’ one of the peat grounds.
 These newcomers are mainly from both ‘ends’ of society (privileged and underprivileged): refugees, status holders, students from the Dutch Antilles, expats and other (poorer) workers from EU- and non-EU countries (see also below). They outnumber the people who leave the city (mainly white middle class families with young children, moving to suburban areas).
 Amsterdam is capital since 1795, when France under Napoleon occupied the country and turned it into a French département for about 18 years.
 An illustration of this fact: about four of the national top-ten most prosperous neighborhoods (and suburbs, like Wassenaar) can be found in and around The Hague. Something alike goes for the poorest neighborhoods (only Rotterdam has more of those).
 From an educational point of view, the segregation of neighborhoods is mirrored in their primary schools. Thus, the location of a primary school plays a major role in the future perspective of its pupils. The Schilderswijk & Escamp University brochure states that, if one would try to make the population of every school represent the whole of The Hague, over 70% of the children would have to change schools.
 Today, over 60.000 expats work and live in The Hague.
 A report about inequality on this site (in Dutch): https://www.onderwijsraad.nl/publicaties/2017/het-bevorderen-van-gelijke-kansen-en-sociale-samenhang/item7563
 This initiative is described in the #Multinclude database: https://multinclude.eu/multinclude-case/urban-education-070/
 Not in the #Multinclude database. Description of the project (in Dutch): https://www.dehaagsehogeschool.nl/over-de-haagse/de-haagse-actueel/nieuws/details/2019/05/14/schilderswijk-en-escamp-university-de-weekendschool-als-motor-voor-sociale-mobiliteit`
 See the case description of PUE070 (https://multinclude.eu/multinclude-case/urban-education-070/)
 An example to illustrate this is the popular Dutch ‘reality TV’ series Oh Oh…(2010-2016), in which about 50 young people from The Hague area figure and are being made fun of.
 Obviously, this story contains the historical perspective of segregation, the role of the city during colonization and the relation of colonization to today’s demographics. The Hague Historical Museum, with exhibitions about The Hague and its communities and their perspectives, does good work here; these kinds of exhibitions attract a broad public. An example is this exhibition about African servants at the Dutch court: https://www.haagshistorischmuseum.nl/tentoonstelling/afrikaanse-bedienden-aan-het-haagse-hof
 Without stepping into the pitfall of making it merely an elite story, it would also be nice to pay more attention to things that people may not be aware of, like the city’s national and international companies and institutions, museums and their treasures, artists (like the painters of the famous impressionist The Hague School and Couperus, one of the most influential writers in Dutch literature), distinctive interbellum architecture, history as prominent jazz- and pop music city, and its glorious past of manufacturing (luxury furniture, carpentry, mopeds, airplanes, radio’s, iron bridges, high quality foodstuff and much more).
This story is part of Multinclude Inclusion Stories about how equity is implemented in different educational environments across the globe. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Author is a researcher, policy advisor and (former) teacher. As a researcher and policy advisor, Edward’s fields of interest are Inclusive Education and professionalization of teachers and staff.