ACCESS NL > Education in the Netherlands > Dutch school system > Primary and secondary education > What are the options for my child’s secondary and higher education options in Dutch schools and universities?

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?

During the final year of primary school (normally in April/May), Dutch children take a mandatory test. The aim of this test is to assess the extent to which a child has progressed in his or her proficiency of the Dutch language and in mathematics. The results of the test, together with the teacher’s assessment over the preceding years, will determine which type of secondary education would be most appropriate for the pupil. The secondary and higher education options are:

  • VMBO: practical secondary education
  • HAVO: senior general secondary education (entrance to HBO – university of applied science)
  • VWO: university preparatory education (entrance to hbo – university of applied science or wo – research university)

VMBO (preparatory secondary vocational education)

The VMBO (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) prepares its students for a more vocationally based secondary education at a MBO (middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) senior school or, in some cases, a more general secondary education at a HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) senior school. A pupil will spend four years in VMBO education and whilst in their second year choose their preferred vocational direction. At the MBO they will be taught subjects that will prepare them for various occupations ranging from shop manager to mechanic or nursing assistant.
Pupils who successfully complete the theoretical, combined or middle-management vocational programme at the VMBO level can enrol in professional and middle-management training. Holders of a middle-management MBO certificate may go on to study at the HBO level (higher professional education).

HAVO (senior general secondary education)

A HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) education takes five years and prepares students for a professional education (hoger beroepsonderwijs – HBO).

VWO (pre-university education)

A VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs) education takes six years and prepares students for a research university education . In the first two years, students follow a common curriculum. All students at a VWO school must study three languages (French, German and English) up to the end of their third year. At the end of the third year, the students choose an academic ‘profile’ package, which includes both compulsory and optional subjects.

Find more information about foreign education systems and international baccalaureate as well as overviews of foreign diplomas in comparison with Dutch diplomas on:

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?

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?