Hanna de Jong-Markus

156 Chapter 1 General Introduction This study’s starting point is increased diversity as it is seen in the Netherlands and other Western countries and the concerns that are regularly expressed in Dutch society and politics about the polarisation and the lack of social cohesion experienced. For promoting social cohesion and learning to deal with diversity in society, schools are often looked at as one of the most important environments. This is reflected, for example, in the importance placed on citizenship education. As of August 1, 2021, the Dutch statutory duty on citizenship education has been tightened in order to make citizenship education less optional. Within this duty the so-called ‘basic values of the Dutch constitutional state’ are seen as essential elements of citizenship education, because these values make it possible for people to to live together in peace despite differing standards and values. The basic values are: freedom of expression, equality, understanding of other people, tolerance, rejection of intolerance, rejection of discrimination, autonomy and sense of responsibility. It is notable that both promoting tolerance and rejecting intolerance are mentioned. This particular emphasis on tolerance is also apparent elsewhere since, in a diverse society, mutual tolerance between different groups is seen as a prerequisite for social cohesion. Tolerance is, however, also an essentially contested concept and it is interpreted very differently. When it comes to religious schools and citizenship education, the public and political debate often revolves around whether such schools can prepare their pupils for life in a diverse society because of the schools’ emphasis on particularity, both in terms of its ideological principles and community. In the Dutch context, these debates are mainly focused on orthodox Protestant (Reformed) and Islamic schools that advocate more or less mono-religious education. This study takes orthodox Protestant primary schools (OPPSs) as its subject, also referred to here as ‘strong religious schools’. These cover about 5% of all primary schools in the Netherlands. Questions about how citizenship education can take shape in OPPSs are raised not only outside but also within these schools, because there is sometimes hesitation about the interpretation of citizenship education as described by the legislator. Citizenship education could then, for example, clash with the school’s own moral values or require too much openness to other religions or world views. There is little explicit understanding of how OPPSs reconcile the religious diversity in society in relation to their mono-religious characteristics since the academic debate is mainly about secular education versus multi-religious or interreligious education in religious schools. Only a small number of Dutch empirical studies from the last 20 years are indirectly about religious