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Updating the mbo in the context of sustainability and the circular economy

Sustainability and the circular economy in mbo: what are the opportunities and challenges? To get a better picture of that, CINOP conducted studies on different aspects of sustainability and the circular economy within Dutch mbo (and Leven Lang Ontwikkelen (LLO)). The studies were conducted for the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Food Quality (LNV, DuurzaamDoor) and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW, Duurzame Scholen-aanpak).  

LNV and IenW have the ambition to embed the themes of sustainability and circular economy in all layers of education, so that it strengthens the position of students on the changing labor market and they can (start to) make a valuable contribution to the transitions that the Netherlands is facing. 

Interdepartmental working group: sustainable school

To achieve this ambition, LNV and IenW started the interdepartmental Sustainable School Working Group in 2021, in which the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK), the Interior (BZK) and Education, Culture and Science (OCW) also joined. Within this working group, the ministries seek connections at the intersections of sustainability and circular economy, youth and education. Where the ministries mentioned see a role for education in achieving their policy goals, they coordinate their plans as much as possible. 

The studies

In order to contribute to the ambition of LNV and IenW, CINOP first of all mapped how the MBO landscape in the Netherlands is structured, which parties exert influence on educational innovation, and how these parties view the themes of sustainability and circular economy in MBO (Research I). In addition, CINOP conducted a comparison of three existing (international) competence sets of sustainability skills, with the aim of providing insight into the differences, similarities and applicability of these sets within the Dutch mbo and LLO educational context (Research II). 

Research I | Updating the mbo in the context of sustainability and the circular economy 

This research has mapped the context of updating the mbo with respect to sustainability and circular economy in the Netherlands. The study provides insight into the structure of the mbo and the parties involved in educational innovation. For each of the parties involved, we examined what the responsibilities are, as well as how each party views sustainability and circular economy in education.  

Based on this overview, concrete recommendations have been formulated, recommending specific follow-up steps for each party involved to further integrate sustainability and circular economy into Dutch MBO. The connection between these findings and the parties involved, such as the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Inspectorate of Education and SBB, illustrates the complexity of implementing these themes in the MBO. From this it can be concluded that integral solutions are essential for lasting change. 

Read the full research report

Research II | Applicability of international competency sets in mbo and LLO

This research focused on comparing three competency sets related to sustainability in education: Education for Sustainable Development Goals - Learning Objectives. (UNESCO), A Rounder Sense of Purpose(Erasmus+), and GreenComp, The European sustainability competence framework (European Commission). The focus was on the applicability of these competency sets in the Dutch mbo and LLO educational context. 

The research shows that there is broad recognition among stakeholders in the MBO and LLO of the urgency and importance of sustainability skills in education. The issue is not so much about whether these competencies should be implemented, but rather about how to do so effectively. The sustainability skills from the competency sets are complex and MBO and LLO stakeholders geven that these should be integrated into the whole of education. Integration into one component of an education, such as citizenship, is not sufficient. Thereby, repetition and contextualization are crucial for effective skill development. The research shows that to fully implement sustainability skills, some preconditions - such as sense of urgency, contextualization and an integral vision of sustainability - are needed at different levels: at the institutional level, among individual teachers, but also in the business world.  

Read the full study

More information? 

Do you have questions following this article or any of the surveys? Please contact Daisy Termorshuizen at 

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