Primary and secondary education

I am planning to stay here for a long time. Should I send my children to a Dutch or an international school?

I have a 14 year old daughter who is coming to live with me in the Netherlands. She does not speak any Dutch. Therefore, can you recommend a Dutch state school where my daughter can learn the language as well as being taught the normal academic subjects?

Do all international schools teach in English?

What are the principle aims of Dutch primary school education and what subjects will my child be taught?

I want to raise my children bilingually. Are there any Dutch schools that teach (partly) in English?

What are the options for my child’s secondary and higher education options in Dutch schools and universities?

I am moving to the Netherlands soon. I am considering home schooling for my children. Is this allowed in the Netherlands?

Who is the leerplichtambtenaar and why did I get a letter from this person?

How does the Dutch school system work?

Dutch education is , like in many other countries, divided into primary education, secondary education and tertiary education.

Primary education

In the Netherlands, primary school starts with kindergarten at age four. From age five it is compulsory to attend school fulltime. There are hardly any private schools in the Netherlands.  Schools can have a certain religious orientation such as Protestant, Catholic, Islamic, Hindu, any other religion or no religion at all.  In addition, schools can follow a certain educational philosophy such as Montessori, Jenaplan, Dalton or Vrije School (internationally also known as Waldorf).  Children with special educational needs will find offerings more frequently in primary than in secondary schools.

Secondary education

There are four options for secondary school:

  • Practical education (praktijkonderwijs)
  • Preparatory secondary vocational education (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs, VMBO)
  • Senior general secondary education (hoger algemeen vormend onderwijs, HAVO)
  • Pre-university education (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs, VWO)

Tertiary education

After secondary school there are several options:

  • Medium level professional education (middelbaar beroepsonderwijs, MBO) for those who have finished VMBO. Like VMBO this has four levels.
  • University of Applied Science (hoger beroepsonderwijs, HBO) for those who have finished HAVO (or MBO at the highest level)
  • Research University (universiteit) for those who have finished VWO ( or first year -called propedeuse – at HBO)

You can read more about how the Dutch education system works on the site of Ute Limacher-Riebold 

My daughter is in group 8 of a Dutch primary school. She is capable of the HAVO or VWO track in secondary school, but her Dutch is insufficient for this level. What options are available?