Home Education Children's Education Choosing a school for your child in the Netherlands
Last update on February 17, 2020
Written by C. van de Laar-Newson

If you are moving to the Netherlands with family, you will need to choose whether to enrol your children in an international school or a Dutch school.

If you are considering relocating to the Netherlands with a family, you will need to consider the education options available to you. You must also adhere to Dutch Education Policy regarding compulsory schooling.

Compulsory schooling in the Netherlands

School attendance in the Netherlands is compulsory from the age of five. However, most children start school when they turn four. Children attend ‘basisschool’ between the ages of four (group 1) and 12 (group 8). Group 1 and 2 compare with a Nursery/Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten education. From the age of six (group 3), children learn to read and write and are taught mathematical skills. In group 8, children sit the Citotoets (Cito test). The results from the test will largely determine which secondary school a child will attend. Education is compulsory in the Netherlands until a child is 18.

You may choose to enrol your child into a Dutch school, especially if your relocation is a long-term or permanent move. You may wish for your child to integrate fully into Dutch society, learn to speak Dutch and experience a Dutch education at first hand.

Dutch vs international schools

Whilst there are some advantages to enrolling into a Dutch school, you may not consider it a feasible option and will instead choose to look at the possibilities of joining one of the English speaking schools in the Netherlands. Aside from ensuring their children are happy in the school of their choice, for most parents, continuity of education is one of the most important factors to be considered when relocating to another country. A structured curriculum ensures children can move from one international school to another with minimal interruption to their education.

An international school will welcome children of all nationalities, not only native English speakers. Different cultures are embraced and celebrated. There is a real sense of ‘community’ amongst the pupils and staff. Provision is made for children learning English as an additional language and progress is often rapid.

Advantages of international schools

There are many advantages to an international school education. You will find that class sizes are generally smaller and that the teacher: pupil ratio is much higher than in a Dutch school. The individual needs of children are recognised and programmes for those children identified as needing learning support or as Able, Gifted or Talented can be found in many international schools.

The modern foreign language programme will provide children with the opportunity to learn Dutch as an additional language as well as the more traditional languages usually taught in primary and secondary schools around the world. International schools are generally well resourced, especially in ICT.

Extracurricular activities

The curriculum is enriched with things such as educational visits, residential trips and an extensive physical education programme. International Schools often provide a wide and varied programme of extracurricular activities which give children with the opportunity to pursue and develop their own interests and experience new ventures. If you have time, make an appointment to visit prospective schools before making a choice, otherwise, contact a senior member of the school staff with your questions to ensure that the choice is the right one for you and your children.