Dutch Ministry of Education launches open education API

Today the Dutch Ministry of Culture, Education and Science has launched an API containing educational data. The data is released as open data under the license of CC0. This API is operated by the government service DUO, responsible for administration of education data in the Netherlands. Open State Foundation has supported the technical implementation. We consider this a huge step for the development of open data in Netherlands.

For Open State Foundation, education data is not a new topic. Since 2011 we are host to a community of education data experts with an open source API collecting data on education from a variety of sources. As such we have acquired extensive knowledge on educational data and have grown experience technically implementing data services. Open State has been and is a proponent of open data.

Although our open source and open data platform has served many developers, companies, NGO’s and even government agencies themselves, several years ago we realized that for educational data to really take on a different approach was needed. More specifically, we identified the need for an authoritative API’s run by the national government. We are very excited to see open data and open source initiatives replicated by governments for several reasons:

  • First of all, as an organisation we are dependent on external funding to maintain and host API’s. Open State supports a variety of data services through our own funding, but these resources are very scarce. Whenever governments start organising their own API’s, our organisation can focus on other domains or move to different data sources. Already two years ago we changed our strategy on educational data to include labour market data to better address the needs of modern society and started actively promoting a national education API.
  • Second, we believe authoritative data is the way to go. For users it is more reliable and trustworthy and able to provide higher quality.
  • Third, as governments open up their API’s, they also raise the standard on open data. From this point of view, we hope that in the future many critical datasets will be offered through quality dataservices run by governments in and outside of the Netherlands.

It’s no surprise that the Ministry of Education Culture and Science is the first ministry to move part of their core data services (i.e. information products) into an API service. This government department already opened up their first data in 1997 after an FOI request by newspaper Trouw. It has developed a proactive transparency policy and since then published lots of education datasets.

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Dutch Government publishes higher education finances per school for many years

Note that this happened even before ‘open data’ came into sway in 2009. Since then they published an open education data portal in 2011 where they added many more data, but also provided open formats (like CSV’s next to SPSS and Excel formats) and proper licenses.

What’s Next?

Currently the Ministry of Education has the agenda set for 2016-2017 to improve transparency further by opening up more quality data, improve accessibility through portals like ‘’, and stimulate more and better use of education data. Data that will come available during this period will include the Education Inspection Authority (school inspection reports) and more data by DUO from both information products (surveys, data collected from schools) but also abstracted from registers, such as realtime numbers of students.

To stimulate use of educational data, on behalf of the Ministery of Education the Waag Society is organizing a data-expedition on the 11th of november in Utrecht. Teachers, parents and students will start with the design of their information needs, based on educational data. Following this data expedition a hackathon will take place.

The coming period we see two developments. On one hand there is the push for more and higher quality data, such as decentralised and international education data, harmonisation and standards, and broadening the range of data, from pre-school to higher education and lifelong learning. And on the other hand, we see developments pointing in the direction of opening up and connecting with a very related domain, the labour market. Together these developments strike a balance with another hot debated topic, how robotics, artificial intelligence and globalisation will change modern society.