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Educational System in The Netherlands

The one tip that you hear expats living in The Netherlands repeatedly sharing with newcomers is not to buy a home when you first move to The Netherlands. Rent for a few months or longer so that you have time to find the right neighborhood. Give yourself time to ensure that The Netherlands is right for you for the long term. If you've already taken time to do those things and are ready to take the plunge and become a property owner, here are tips about buying a home in The Netherlands.
Educational System in The Netherlands

The Netherlands is renowned for its high-quality education system, which is well-structured and offers a wide range of options for both local and international students. The Dutch education system is designed to foster a love of learning and to equip students with the skills they need to succeed in a global society. This guide will provide an overview of the main stages of education in The Netherlands, the enrollment process for newcomers, language requirements, the availability of bilingual and private schools, the cost of private education, and the possibilities for homeschooling and online schooling.

What are the main stages of education in The Netherlands?

The Dutch education system is divided into several stages: primary education (basisschool), secondary education (middelbare school), and tertiary education (hogeschool or universiteit). Primary education is for children aged 4 to 12, secondary education is for students aged 12 to 18, and tertiary education is for students aged 18 and above. Each stage has a different focus and is designed to prepare students for the next level of education.

Primary Education (Basisschool)

Primary education in The Netherlands, known as basisschool, is for children aged 4 to 12. It focuses on the development of basic skills such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as fostering creativity and social skills. Children start school on the day after their 4th birthday and continue until they are 12. The final year of primary school includes a national test, the results of which help determine the type of secondary school the child will attend.

Secondary Education (Middelbare School)

Secondary education, or middelbare school, is for students aged 12 to 18. It is divided into three streams: pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO), general secondary education (HAVO), and pre-university education (VWO). The stream a student enters is determined by their performance in primary school. Each stream prepares students for different types of tertiary education and careers.

Tertiary Education (Hogeschool or Universiteit)

Tertiary education in The Netherlands is offered at universities of applied sciences (hogescholen) and research universities (universiteiten). Universities of applied sciences offer professionally-oriented bachelor’s and master’s degrees, while research universities offer academic-oriented bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

How does a newcomer from a different country enroll their kids in school?

Newcomers can enroll their children in Dutch schools by contacting the school directly. It’s advisable to start the enrollment process as early as possible, as some schools may have waiting lists. You will need to provide the school with your child’s passport or ID card, a birth certificate, and proof of residence. If your child has been attending school in another country, it’s also helpful to provide school reports or any other relevant documents.

My children are still learning Dutch, can they enroll in a public school?

Yes, children who are still learning Dutch can enroll in a public school. There are special reception classes (nieuwkomersklassen) for children who do not yet speak Dutch. In these classes, children receive intensive Dutch language instruction to prepare them for regular classes.

Are there public bilingual schools?

Yes, there are public bilingual schools in The Netherlands. These schools offer instruction in both Dutch and English, and are designed to prepare students for international careers. Admission requirements vary by school, so it’s best to contact the school directly for information.

What types of private schools are common in The Netherlands?

There are several types of private schools in The Netherlands, including international schools, religious schools, and Montessori schools. International schools offer an international curriculum and are popular among expats. Religious schools are affiliated with a particular religion and offer religious instruction in addition to the regular curriculum. Montessori schools follow the Montessori method of education, which emphasizes independence and self-directed learning.

Do expats typically send their children to public or private school?

Many expats in The Netherlands choose to send their children to international schools, which offer an international curriculum and a multicultural environment. However, some expats prefer to send their children to local Dutch schools to immerse them in the local culture and language.

How expensive are Private schools in The Netherlands?

The cost of private schools in The Netherlands varies widely, depending on the type of school and the specific services it offers. International schools tend to be the most expensive, with annual tuition fees ranging from €4,000 to €20,000. Religious and Montessori schools are generally less expensive.

Are you allowed to homeschool while living in The Netherlands?

Homeschooling is not common in The Netherlands and is only allowed under certain conditions. Parents who wish to homeschool their children must apply for an exemption from compulsory school attendance, and must demonstrate that they can provide an adequate education at home.

May kids attend online school instead of a local school while living in The Netherlands?

Online schooling is not common in The Netherlands, and is generally only used as a supplement to regular schooling. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have implemented online learning options. It’s best to check with the local education authority or the school directly for the most up-to-date information.

Joshua WoodJoshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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