A parents' guide to education in the Netherlands
Get the essentials on education in the Netherlands, from primary and secondary schooling, through higher education to teaching in the Netherlands with foreign credentials.
Compulsory education in the Netherlands under Dutch law applies to children of all nationalities from 5 to 18 years old who are residents in the Netherlands, and should be completed with a diploma.
International schools in the Netherlands can be a good choice for the children of foreign parents who are staying temporarily in the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, the majority of international schools are partly subsidised by the Dutch Ministry of Education and are thus bound by ministry rules, while others are privately operated. The subsidy provided by the Dutch Ministry of Education makes it possible for these schools to offer English language education to the global standard of international schools for a reasonable fee. Fees vary from school to school.
According to the Dutch Ministry of Education, students from the following backgrounds are eligible:
- A non-Dutch family staying in the Netherlands for a limited period of time with an expatriate status.
- An internationally mobile Dutch family, whose children have been largely educated abroad, and for whom an international education will be more advisable to ensure continuity.
- A Dutch family bound for an international assignment, whose children will be switching from education in Dutch to English. This transition is limited to a period of one year.
In general, private international schools only have English language education, but the French, German, Japanese and Korean schools teach their national curricula in their native tongue.
Primary education starts at the age of 4 and continues up until the age of 11 or 12. Dutch International Primary Schools and the private regular international schools follow the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) or the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IBPYP). Private schools, such as the American School and the British School, use their national curricula.
During the first four to five years of secondary education, the Dutch International Secondary Schools prepare their students for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IBMYP) or the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE).
The IGCSE diploma is the globally recognised equivalent of the British GCSE, plus with two additonal subjects at AS level of the Dutch HAVO.
Students who have successfully completed the IBMYP or the IGCSE can be admitted to the two-year International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB).
The IB diploma is widely recognised as providing a well-balanced pre-university education. It is an accepted entrance qualification for top universities around the world.
Private schools may have different curricula for both junior and senior secondary school.
Secondary level vocational schools (MBO)
If a student has successfully completed the IGCSE or IB-MYP, but is not admitted to the IB Diploma programme, then MBO (three to four years) might be a good option. In the Netherlands, students can follow several English language programmes, for instance Business and Hospitality.
Higher or tertiary education is offered at two different levels for those looking to study in the Netherlands: vocational (HBO) and academic (WO).
Hogescholen or ‘professional universities'
After having obtained the IB Diploma (and in some cases the IGCSE Diploma or an MBO Diploma), students can enrol in the so-called 'professional universities‘ (HBO, or hogeschool), which provide third level vocational education. The HBO schools include institutions that offer general education as well as institutions specialising in one of the seven HBO sectors: agriculture, engineering and technology, economics and business administration, healthcare, fine and performing arts, education/teacher training, and social welfare.
Throughout the country many hogescholen or 'professional universities‘ offer programmes in English. Visit www.hbo-raad.nl for more information.
In the Netherlands, academic education or third level degree education (universiteit) is offered in Amsterdam (UvA, VU), Maastricht, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Rotterdam, Leiden, Tilburg, Nijmegen, Wageningen, Enschede, Groningen, Delft, and Middelburg.
Europe's higher education market is unifying rapidly. European students increasingly wish to compare their study options across national borders, while Europe is also becoming more attractive for students from overseas. Nevertheless, most information resources are still at a national level. Opportunities for students are increasing, and often they are not even aware of what their options are. The Mastersportal fills this vacuum and helps students to find and choose Master's programmes across some 30 European countries.
Teaching in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is the only country in the world where the government subsidises international education. This means that teachers with foreign teaching credentials who want to teach in the Netherlands must meet the standards set by the Dutch Ministry of Education.
For a copy of the rules and regulations, and to fill in a form to see if you qualify, contact helpdesk for international education in the Netherlands, Educaide at email@example.com. On the basis of the information you provide, Educaide will be able to give you advice on the steps to take in order to obtain the accreditation as well as other possible red-tape procedures.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or confused, you can contact:
- NUFFIC (Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education) in the Hague (www.studyin.nl);
- Mastersportal (www.mastersportal.eu);
- DUO in Groningen (www.duo.nl); or
- Educaide, your International Education Solution House. Educaide advises all stakeholders on a wide range of issues pertaining to international and bilingual education in the Netherlands.
Willemijn L. van Oppen-Stuyt / Educaide / Expatica
Willemijn runs Educaide, a help desk for international education in the Netherlands. Contact her at +31 (06)5 598 8998 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to PO Box 96911, NL-2509, JH The Hague. Updated 2017.
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