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You are here: Home Moving to Getting Started Education in the Netherlands (page 1)
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04/07/2012Education in the Netherlands

Education in the Netherlands The education system in the Netherlands is confusing for many. Our guide takes you through schooling in the Netherlands up until higher education and university level.

The schooling system in the Netherlands emphasizes choice in education.

Compulsory education under Dutch law applies to children of all nationalities from five to 18 years who are residing in the Netherlands. The school system is, however, quite unusual.

Choosing a school

There's a commitment to educational choice in the Netherlands. Schools following particular religious or pedagogic principles have had equal state funding to public schools since 1917 and there are now twice as many privately run as publicly run schools. International education is available at both Dutch and private schools throughout the country.

Local or international?

Your finances, location, nationality, the age of your children, and how long you are likely to stay in the Netherlands are the main factors you should take into account when selecting a school.  Many companies reimburse international school fees as part of a relocation package and the reimbursements could be exempt from income tax (though not for all schools).

While teenagers might appreciate the educational and social continuity provided by an international school, younger children might get a greater sense of belonging by going to a local school. By learning good Dutch they will connect to their new world more easily. You certainly won't be the only non-Dutch parent in the playground.  

Applying for a school

Register your child as soon as possible at the school of your choice. Technically, public schools are not allowed to refuse admission. Popular schools, however, have waiting lists (and you will need to register before school age) and the municipality can assign catchment areas based on postcodes. All schools have brochures and websites where they announce ‘open days’ when you can visit the school.

Most children start at about four years-- 98 percent start at three years and 10 months when they come in for five orientation days before they turn four). Children are leerplichtig (under a learning obligation or leerplicht) from five years for 12 years full-time education and one or two years part-time (until the attainment of a diploma).

School inspection reports can be viewed online (this applies to state schools and Dutch international schools only) at www.owinsp.nl: select schoolwijzer and enter the name of the school and/or town. The visual representation of green (good) and red (not good) blobs will at least give you some idea of performance.  
In the Pisa/OECD international rankings for 15-year-olds in 56 countries (published in December 2007), the Netherlands was “above average” for both mathematics (5th) and reading (10th).


Types of school


Source schools at www.voo.nl, www.scholenlijst.nl or via your city's website (onderwijs = education).

Public (openbare) schools

State-run schools (non-denominational) provide secular education, but they can also offer teaching around specific philosophic or pedagogic principles (Montessori, Steiner etc.). Public schools are governed by the municipal council or a public legal entity or foundation set up by the council.

Private schools

Most private schools are denominational (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, Hindu) or follow specific philosophic principles, as above. Private schools are governed by a board or the foundation that set them up. Financially, they have the same status as public schools and are basically free, although all schools ask for a small contribution for things such as school trips.

Special schools

The national ‘Going to school together’ policy is designed to enable as many children as possible to be educated in mainstream schools, but there are schools for children with special needs and also special needs teachers at Dutch schools. Lighthouse Special Education provides extensive assistance in the English language.   Entry is by referral.

Costs

Primary and secondary state education is free, with parents being asked to contribute a  ‘voluntary’ nominal amount, which varies from school to school with additional payments for lengthier school trips and lunchtime supervision (tussenschoolse opvang) and after-school care (naschoolse opvang) which the school is supposed to provide or sub-contract.  

Education policy

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science set quality standards, attainment targets and social objectives but individual schools ‘fill in the details’ of the curriculum and budget allocation. Education policy includes combating school segregation, integrating special needs children, tackling early school leaving and addressing teacher shortage.

Dutch Primary education (primair onderwijs or basisonderwijs)

There are eight years of primary schooling. Most children start at four years in group one and move up a group every year. Different age groups may be in the same class. In ‘Group 8’ (in February of each year), children in 85 percent of primary schools (basisscholen) sit the CITO test (www.cito.nl) which will determine their next level of education. CITO tests are also used in some schools to measure the literacy and numeracy of younger children. The government sets attainment targets in six curriculum areas: Dutch, English (taught in Groups 7 and 8), arithmetic and mathematics, social and environmental studies, creative expression and sports and movement. New targets include citizenship, technology and cultural education.

Dutch Secondary education (voortgezet onderwijs)

From 12 years. There are four main diplomas:

VMBO (a further four years of school). Prep school for vocational secondary education. A VMBO-T diploma can lead onto secondary vocational education (MBO).

HAVO
(five years). Senior general secondary education. Provides entrance to hogescholen or ‘vocational universities’  (HBO Hoger beroepsonderwijs).

VWO (six years). Preparation for academic studies at a research university (WO -- Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs). VWO schools are called Athenaeum, Gymnasium and/ or Lyceum. In the past, the various forms of secondary education were provided in different schools but now there are broader combined schools allowing movement between diploma programmes.

MBO. Secondary Vocational Education. If a student has successfully completed the Dutch VMBO-t or the international middle school programmes, the IGCSE or IB-MYP, but is not admitted to the IB-Diploma Programme, the MBO (three to four years) might be a good option. In the Netherlands students can follow several MBO-programmes taught in the English language as well.

Just under a third of secondary schools are run by the public authority. English is a compulsory subject. VMBO-T pupils study one modern language and HAVO/VWO pupils at least two. A Gymnasium (VWO) programme will also include Greek and/or Latin. Other core areas include mathematics, humanities, arts and sciences. In the first few years all pupils study the same subjects (to different academic levels), which is known as the basisvorming. This is followed by a second stage (tweede fase) in which specialist profiles are selected.

School holidays

Major holidays for state schools are set nationally with staggered start/finish times between three regions. Private international school holidays can be different.
(www.minocw.nl/schoolvakanties)


International schools

These provide education for global nomad students of any nationality.

Dutch International Primary Schools (DIPS) and Dutch International Secondary Schools (DISS) provide international education at a reasonable fee because of a subsidy from the Dutch government. They are designed for non-Dutch families living in the Netherlands for a limited time, and Dutch families returning from, or preparing for, an overseas assignment. These schools teach either the International Primary Curriculum (4 - 11 years; the IGCSE (11-16 years) or the International Baccalaureate programmes at primary (4-11 years) and middle years’ level (11-16 years). All DISS teach the IB-Diploma programme (16-18 years)l.  

International schools (Private Sector)

These schools teach the national curriculum of a specific country (UK, US, French, German, Japanese) or an international curriculum as described above. Facilities (swimming pools, football pitches) are often spectacular compared to the Dutch schools. For about half of the school population at all international schools, English is not the first language. View our listing of international schools in the Netherlands.


Bilingual education


there are 99 schools with a VWO bilingual stream and 20 with HAVO. Only students that master the Dutch language at an appropriate level will be admitted.    (www.netwerktto.europeesplatform.nl)

 

Higher education in the Netherlands

Read our guide to the higher education system in the Netherlands.

 

For more information on education in the Netherlands, join the next Expatica.com's Expat Education Fair.

 





5 reactions to this article

Father posted: 2012-08-31 14:31:57

Hi folks! We moved to the NL a year ago, and currently reside in Almere. We were advised to enroll our children to the Taal Centrum Almere - this is a special school for foreign children or for those who were born in NL in a non-Dutch speaking families. This school is designed to upskill the Dutch language within a relatively shorter time (normally, a year). And, it's free!!! After successful completion, the child can be transferred to a regular Dutch school. Needless to say that the whole attitude and care given to my children are amazing!!! Trust me on this! My children were absolutely happy, and I found myself a bit silly not to be able to catch up with them in Dutch. They started communicating in Dutch with each other in just a couple of months. And we have not faced any harassment or disrespect (so far), as some posters have indicated above.

As a next step, we have chosen the Letterland in Almere. This is a dual-language school with both Dutch and English (International) departments. We chose the Dutch department as we are intending to stay here longer, so it'd be easier for my kids to integrate with the locals.

Recently, I heard some rumors about the Letterland that children might have been treated badly or not much of a tailored attention is given to kid's development, etc. I hope it's not true!!!! I'm very curious to find out more insight and experience of others. Any thought is very much appreciated. Thank you, all!

Alice posted: 2012-10-24 07:46:29

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

Amy posted: 2013-11-14 16:50:57

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

Kelly posted: 2014-01-08 11:34:00

Hey there wonder if anyone can help... i was born in holland.. Moved to the uk ten years ago... 3children who are going to uk schools.. I was wondering if there is a online dutch education my kids could follow!?

Bella posted: 2014-02-13 12:14:56

@Kelly, I'm not sure how it works but you could always consider "wereldschool"

http://www.wereldschool.nl/about-the-wereldschool

5 reactions to this article

Father posted: 2012-08-31 14:31:57

Hi folks! We moved to the NL a year ago, and currently reside in Almere. We were advised to enroll our children to the Taal Centrum Almere - this is a special school for foreign children or for those who were born in NL in a non-Dutch speaking families. This school is designed to upskill the Dutch language within a relatively shorter time (normally, a year). And, it's free!!! After successful completion, the child can be transferred to a regular Dutch school. Needless to say that the whole attitude and care given to my children are amazing!!! Trust me on this! My children were absolutely happy, and I found myself a bit silly not to be able to catch up with them in Dutch. They started communicating in Dutch with each other in just a couple of months. And we have not faced any harassment or disrespect (so far), as some posters have indicated above.

As a next step, we have chosen the Letterland in Almere. This is a dual-language school with both Dutch and English (International) departments. We chose the Dutch department as we are intending to stay here longer, so it'd be easier for my kids to integrate with the locals.

Recently, I heard some rumors about the Letterland that children might have been treated badly or not much of a tailored attention is given to kid's development, etc. I hope it's not true!!!! I'm very curious to find out more insight and experience of others. Any thought is very much appreciated. Thank you, all!

Alice posted: 2012-10-24 07:46:29

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

Amy posted: 2013-11-14 16:50:57

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

Kelly posted: 2014-01-08 11:34:00

Hey there wonder if anyone can help... i was born in holland.. Moved to the uk ten years ago... 3children who are going to uk schools.. I was wondering if there is a online dutch education my kids could follow!?

Bella posted: 2014-02-13 12:14:56

@Kelly, I'm not sure how it works but you could always consider "wereldschool"

http://www.wereldschool.nl/about-the-wereldschool

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