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Netherlands – Education and Schools

The quality of education in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is known for its high-quality education system. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings, the Netherlands consistently ranks in the top 10 countries in the world for education quality. The Dutch education system is characterized by its focus on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills in students.

Age of compulsory education in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, education is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16. Children must attend school full-time from the age of 5 until they reach the age of 18, although they may choose to attend a part-time school program after the age of 16.

Types of schools in the Netherlands

There are several types of schools in the Netherlands, each with its own educational philosophy and focus. The breakdown of schools by age is as follows:

Primary Education

Primary education in the Netherlands is for children between the ages of 4 and 12. There are two types of primary schools: public schools and special schools. Public schools are open to all children, while special schools are for children with special needs, such as those with learning disabilities or physical disabilities. Primary education focuses on developing basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, as well as social skills and critical thinking.

Secondary Education


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Secondary education in the Netherlands is for children between the ages of 12 and 18. There are several types of secondary schools, including:

VMBO (Vocational Education and Training)

VMBO schools offer vocational education and training for students who want to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. These schools provide practical training in a variety of fields, such as mechanics, carpentry, and healthcare.

HAVO (Senior General Secondary Education)

HAVO schools provide a general education for students who want to continue their studies at a university of applied sciences or pursue vocational training. The curriculum includes a mix of academic and vocational subjects.

VWO (Pre-University Education)

VWO schools provide an academic education for students who want to attend a research university. The curriculum includes a mix of academic subjects and electives.

Gymnasium

Gymnasium schools offer an academic education with a focus on classical languages and culture. Students who attend a gymnasium school receive a diploma that qualifies them to attend a research university.

Higher Education

Higher education in the Netherlands includes both research universities and universities of applied sciences. Research universities offer academic programs in a wide range of subjects, while universities of applied sciences focus on vocational training and practical education.

Syllabus and qualifications

Schools in the Netherlands follow a national curriculum that is set by the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science. The curriculum includes a mix of core subjects, such as Dutch, English, mathematics, and science, as well as optional subjects, such as art, music, and physical education.

At the end of primary school, students take a test called the Cito test, which measures their academic ability and helps determine which type of secondary school they will attend. At the end of secondary school, students take final exams that determine whether they will receive a diploma and qualify for higher education.

School hours and holidays

School hours in the Netherlands typically run from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm, although they may vary depending on the school. There are two-week breaks for Christmas and Easter, as well as a six-week summer vacation. In addition, there are several national holidays throughout the year when schools are closed.

Enrollment and competition

To enroll in a school in the Netherlands, parents must provide proof of residency, such as a rental contract or utility bill, as well as a birth certificate and a passport or ID card. Competition for enrollment varies depending on the school and location. In some areas, there may be a shortage of available school places, particularly in popular schools or in areas with a high population density. In these cases, students may be placed on a waiting list or may need to attend a school outside of their preferred area.

International schools

For expats and international students, there are several international schools in the Netherlands that offer education in English or other languages. These schools follow international curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate or the British National Curriculum, and are often attended by the children of diplomats, expats, or international business professionals.

Some notable international schools in the Netherlands include the International School of Amsterdam, the British School in the Netherlands, and the American School of The Hague. These schools typically have high tuition fees and may have strict enrollment requirements, such as a minimum level of English proficiency.

Higher education options

The Netherlands is home to several top-ranked universities, including the University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, and Delft University of Technology. These universities offer a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs in subjects such as law, medicine, engineering, and social sciences.

In addition to research universities, the Netherlands also has universities of applied sciences that offer vocational training and practical education. These universities are often attended by students who want to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.

To enroll in higher education in the Netherlands, students must have a high school diploma or an equivalent qualification, such as an International Baccalaureate diploma or a European Baccalaureate diploma. Some programs may have additional requirements, such as language proficiency tests or entrance exams.

The education system in the Netherlands is known for its high quality and focus on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16, and there are several types of schools available for different age groups and educational goals. The national curriculum includes a mix of core and optional subjects, and students take tests and exams to qualify for higher education. The Netherlands also has several international schools and top-ranked universities for expats and international students.


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