Education in the Netherlands

Families moving to the Netherlands will have a range of good-quality schooling options available to them. Education consultant Annebet Van Mameren has some advice for parents on choosing the one that best suits their child.

The British School In the Netherlands

The British School in The Netherlands

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Generally, schools in the Netherlands offer high-quality education. The philosophy behind the country’s education system reflects the mentality of Dutch society as a whole, and aims to encourage pupils to live and learn in an open-minded, independent and creative manner.

International or Dutch school?

Both international and Dutch schools have their own advantages. If you are planning to stay in the Netherlands for a short period, an international school may provide your child with some continuity. If you intend to stay longer and would like your child to mix with the local culture and learn the language, a Dutch school is probably the better option.Another factor to consider is the huge difference in cost. Apart from a few private, fee-paying schools, all Dutch schools are funded by the government. Parents pay a small contribution (between €50 and €800 per year), with which the schools pay for some extras.School search and education advice - connect with our in-country expertsA few international schools are partly subsidised by the Dutch government, or by the government of the country they are linked to. For these, the fees average €4,500 per annum. For a private international school, however, you pay at least €12,000 a year.

International schools

Most international schools are located in bigger cities like Amsterdam, where many multinational companies are headquartered. The greatest selection of international schools is in The Hague, where many embassies and government institutions are located. Here you’ll find, among others, British, American, French, Japanese and European schools.Schools such as Eerde International Boarding School in Ommen, which follows the Cambridge Pathway and the IB Diploma Programme, also provide boarding facilities which can be a useful option for busy parents. Explains the school’s director and CEO, Nelleke Deelen-Geuze, “Living and learning at an international boarding school educates children in the broadest possible sense. And their parents can focus on busy work schedules knowing their children are in good hands. At Eerde, boarding students don’t just learn to pass exams, they develop into self-reliant, responsible young adults too.”  Sending your child to a school where your native language is spoken will, of course, make it easier for them if and when you return to your own country.

Dutch schools

In Dutch schools, children usually start the day after their fourth birthday. Most schools combine children aged from four to six in one class. In these two years, the focus is on learning through play, social and motor skills, and gradual preparation for reading and writing.All Dutch schools are obliged to adhere to the ‘core objectives’ set by the government. These specify what all pupils in all schools need to accomplish each year. Individual schools may fill in the details.In the Netherlands, there are both ‘regular’ and ‘special’ schools. Regular schools are funded by the government and run by an independent foundation which has usually been set up by the government, whereas special schools have their own boards, usually consisting of parents or the foundation that set them up.Special schools should not be confused with special-needs schools that teach pupils with (severe) learning difficulties. Most special schools are religious (Catholic, Protestant, Islamic or Jewish, for example), or follow specific pedagogic principles, such as Montessori, Waldorf or Dalton. Usually, the religious schools are fairly moderate in terms of religion, and are open to children who have a different religion or are not religious.The application procedure for Dutch schools differs by city, and sometimes even by school. Some schools have a waiting list, while others require you to enter a lottery. In the bigger cities, you often have to live in the right catchment area to have a chance of getting your child into your preferred school.

Foreign children in Dutch schools

Four- and five-year-olds who don’t speak Dutch can usually start at regular primary school straightaway. They usually pick up the language quickly and are (almost) fluent before the ‘real learning’ starts at the age of six.Children aged six and older are usually required to follow a Dutch immersion programme first. This takes about a year, after which they can continue their education with children of the same age at a regular school.There is also an immersion programme at secondary level for children aged from 12 to 18, after which pupils can move into a regular secondary school. Taking this route can be challenging, and children often ‘lose’ a year. In this case, it is often easier for a child to go to an international secondary school instead.

Useful education-related websites

National websites

Compare schoolsNational school holidaysSpecial-needs educationSchool inspectionPrivate (fee-paying) schools (all levels)

Information for international families

Expat Special Educational Needs Group in the NetherlandsDutch immersion classes (for foreign children aged six and above)
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