Education the netherlands

Compulsory education in the Netherlands

Education is compulsory for all children residing in the Netherlands, regardless of their nationality. If a child is registered at an educational institute abroad, they still have to attend school in the Netherlands. Compulsory education starts on the first day of the month after the child’s fifth birthday. Most children start going to school at the age of four and it is even possible to attend school at three years and ten months of age. This is especially helpful for foreign children who are starting to learn the Dutch language.

Structure of the Dutch school system

The higher and vocational parts of the Dutch education system mostly follow the international educational model and are therefore easy enough to understand for anyone familiar with the international model. The structure of the Dutch school system (primary and secondary school) is quite complicated, however. Below we are going to do our best to explain and keep it brief!

Primary school

Between the ages of four and twelve, children attend primary school (called 'basisschool' in Dutch, from the Dutch word for 'foundation'). Primary school consists of eight grades (called groups). In grade 8, most schools administer an aptitude test called the Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs (literally: 'Cito final test primary education'), which is often abbreviated to Citotoets (Cito test). It is designed to recommend the type of secondary education best suited for a pupil. In recent years, this test has gained authority, but the recommendation of the group 8 teacher, along with the pupil's own opinion and the opinion of his/her parents, remains a crucial factor in choosing the pupil's secondary education.

Most elementary schools are based on a particular educational philosophy, like the Montessori Method, Pestalozzi Plan, Dalton Plan, Jena Plan, or Freinet. This is especially true for public primary schools, but goes for some special schools as well.

Secondary school

When they start secondary school ('middelbare school') at age 12, children enter one of three different tracks of education. The different tracks represent different educational paths, based on the student’s academic proficiency and interests.

  • VMBO (preparatory secondary vocational education)
    VMBO is vocationally orientated: it focuses on practical knowledge, and after completion, allows the pupil access to vocational training (MBO). It has two qualification levels and students complete the track at the age of 16.
  • HAVO (senior general secondary education)
    HAVO ordinarily takes five years to complete and prepares students to continue onto higher professional education at universities of applied sciences. Students complete HAVO around the age of 17.
  • VWO (university preparatory education)
    VWO takes (at least) six years to complete and focuses on theoretical knowledge. It prepares students to continue onto an academic bachelor’s degree at a research university. Typically, VWO is completed at the age of 18.

Rivers International School

The Arnhem – Nijmegen – Wageningen area has one International school: Rivers International School, located in a brand-new building in Arnhem. The school provides preschool, primary and secondary education. Around 45 nationalities are represented in a school population of 200 to 250 pupils. The pupils are mainly from expat families who live and work in the region.

The educational landscape of the Netherlands

The Dutch educational landscape can seem quite complicated. If our expositions above have not yet made everything clear to you, perhaps this video will help. It allows you to see at a single glance how the different forms of education are linked up with each other.

More information on the Dutch education system

In the previous academic year, 7,666 foreign students were studying in Gelderland.
There are approximately 81,700 foreign students in the Netherlands, coming from 61 countries of which Germany, China and Belgium are the top three.
Did you know that every job filled in by foreign talent also provides another extra 1,5 job?
There are 806 Englisch vacancies in the Arnhem - Nijmegen – Wageningen area.