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Rotterdam - Education & Schools

Education ('onderwijs') is emphasized in The Netherlands. Nearly one out of every three school leavers obtain a first university degree (according to the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.) Education is compulsory for all children from age 5 to 18 years, and this applies even to foreigners who happen to be residing in The Netherlands.

Primary education ('basisonderwijs' or 'primair onderwijs') is for children aged between 4 to approximately 12 years; secondary education ('voortgezet onderwijs') are for children aged above 12 to around 16-18 years of age. Upon completion of secondary education, children can choose to continue vocational education ('hoger beroepsonderwijs') or higher education ('wetenschappelijke onderwijs'). Higher vocational education refers to training centers in a few sectors such as engineering and technology, economics, health and social care and agriculture, natural environment and food technology. Higher education refers to higher professional education or university education. Higher education options are usually for students aged 18 and above.

At the primary level, some core compulsory subjects are taught – languages (Dutch – English is taught in certain classes), mathematics, science and nature, geography, history and art. At the secondary level, there are four types – (1) practical training, (2) pre-vocational education ('voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs'), (3) senior general secondary education ('hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs') and (4) pre-university education ('voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs'). The national test ('CITO tests') are taken at the end of primary school to help students determine the type of secondary education to pursue. Compulsory subjects (for the first three years of secondary school) are languages (Dutch and English), mathematics, science, geography, history, physical education and the arts. Depending on the type of secondary education, students will go on to complete the rest of their secondary education in a more specialized manner. There are full and part time courses available for higher education in The Netherlands. For more information about higher education opportunities in The Netherlands, you can visit the Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education (NUFFIC) website at

Expatriates with school-going children can choose to send their children to either a local or public school, a private school (denominational – Protestant, Islamic, Roman Catholic), or an international school. Each has its own pros and cons. The municipal office can assign students to local schools based on their place of residence. You can read school inspection reports at (Website is in Dutch only). Primary and secondary education is free at both private and public schools. Private international schools are privately-run, and are known to be expensive. Private international schools follow a non-Dutch curriculum, and the subjects are taught in different languages, depending on the school of choice. For instance, the American International School of Rotterdam (AISR) offers the IB program, and the lessons are taught mainly in English. de Blijberg is another international school in Rotterdam. For a list of international schools in The Netherlands, try

Childcare ('kinderopvang') options for working expatriates with young children include the public day-care centers ('kinderdagverblif') for children aged 6 weeks to 4 years. Long waiting lists can occur, so some expatriate parents either turn to private day care or pre-school ('peuterspeelzalen'). Anyone living and working in The Netherlands (including foreigners and expatriates) are entitled to 'kinderbijslag', which is a contribution from the Dutch government to help parents defray the high cost of raising children in The Netherlands. For more information, visit the Sociale Verzerkerings Bank (SVB) website at

There is a university – the Erasmus University Rotterdam that has two campuses in Rotterdam. The Erasmus Medical Center (Hoboken campus in west part of Rotterdam city) is the largest trauma center in The Netherlands. The Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (Woudestein campus in east part of Rotterdam city) is a leading business school in Europe. The Erasmus University offers higher education in three main areas - (1) Economics and Management, (2) Law, Culture and Society and (3) Medicine and Health Sciences. The MBA program at the business school are popular with foreigners and has a good ranking by The Financial Times. Many of the Bachelor programs are taught in Dutch, but the graduate programs are taught in English. Other higher education options are the Hogeschool Rotterdam (Business school of the Rotterdam University), the Hogeschool INHolland University of Applied Sciences and CodArts (hogeschool for music and dance).

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