Hanna de Jong-Markus

How Cohesion Matters 4 67 4.1 Introduction In research and debates about school choice, the choices of teachers seem to be overlooked (Forsey, 2010). That is a serious failing since the educational processes and the shaping of a school’s identity depend to a significant degree on the teachers (Bakker & Rigg, 2004; Cannata, 2010; Forsey, 2010). Our empirical study focuses on teachers and shows how they value the monoreligious characteristic of their schools, not only for the children, but also for themselves. The study was carried out in the Netherlands, where the educational system is remarkably characterized by a large number of state-funded denominational schools. Teachers are free to apply wherever they prefer. Parents can choose a school that they believe to be the best for their child(ren) (Denessen et al., 2005; Dronkers, 1995; Merry & Karsten, 2010). At least 5% of Dutch primary schools are orthodox Protestant schools (De Muynck et al., 2014; see more in the next section). Knowledge about the motives of teachers who choose orthodox Protestant primary schools (hereafter referred to as OPPSs) could provide more insight into the specific characteristics and rationales of these schools. In this way, debates about school choice and the existence of (conservative) religious schools in plural Western societies can be better informed (cf. Maussen & Vermeulen, 2015). Examining what individual teachers think about religious schools has become even more important, as individualized religion is on the rise, while the formal ideas of school boards and church councils have become less influential, and thus, less insightful (Bakker & Rigg, 2004; Bertram-Troost et al., 2017; De Muynck, 2008). Furthermore, this study advances research about teachers’ career decisions. Cannata (2010, p. 2928) highlights that, in research, more attention needs to be directed to “how perceptions of working conditions interact with the social and cultural contexts of schools and their students.” Investigating choices in religious communities, as in this study, is likely to be related to this. Our explorative study focuses on teachers at OPPSs in the Netherlands. We expect this study to provide not only knowledge of the Dutch context, but also to gain relevant insights for research about religious schools in other contexts. This study’s central question is the following: Is the mono-religious school characteristic important for teachers working at Dutch OPPSs, and what are the reasons for this? To answer this question, we analyzed extensive interviews with 16 primary school teachers. The structure of this article is as follows. First, we describe the OPPSs and the Dutch educational system. Then, we describe what is known about parents’ motives for choosing an OPPS, after which we discuss the literature concerning how teachers perceive the