|The Education System in the Netherlands|
Dutch law strictly enforces compulsory education for all children aged 5 to 18 residing in the Netherlands, regardless of their nationality. Primary schools are for children aged 4-12, thereafter students are “tracked” and steered into an appropriate educational direction according to ability and performance.
As of 1 August 2007, compulsory education has been extended to the age of 18, or any earlier moment that teenagers are qualified to enter the labour market: with a HAVO or VWO diploma (secondary education) or an MBO level 2, 3 or 4 diploma (vocational secondary education).
Most Dutch children usually start primary school (basisschool) by the age of four. The Dutch have a strong educational system, but as an expat you may wish to have your children attend an international school, of which there are several in The Hague. Either way, you will want to register your child in advance as MANY schools have a waiting list. Younger siblings of pupils are given preferred status on waiting lists, so don’t forget to make that known if that's the case.
Choosing a School
If you are already living in the Netherlands, then you can visit the school(s) of your choice. It is advisable to start looking at schools either in advance of your move to the Netherlands, or soon after your arrival. If you are choosing a Dutch school, check with your municipality for a list of primary schools in your neighbourhood. Whether you are looking at a private or public schooling for your child, you should make an appointment to talk with an administrator. It would be also be helpful to attend an information day (voorlichtingsdagen) at the school. Visiting the school and talking to staff will allow you to make an informed decision based on first hand experience. It is also wise to check with your colleagues, friends, and other expats for their advice and recommendations.
You can choose to send your child to a neighbourhood school, or to a special education school (schools that follow particular pedagogical beliefs, such as Montessori, Steiner, or a school based on religious principals). In addition, there are specific schools for children with special needs or handicapped children and those children with behavioural problems.
Education is free for every child in the Netherlands, unless you choose a private school. A school can request a parental contribution (ouderbijdrage) to help fund school activities, outings, etc. Primary school children are given free swimming lessons. (schoolzwemmen).
Children attend school Monday to Friday from around 08.30 till 15.00. Lunch hour is from 12.00 to13.00. and the schools are obligated to provide school care (overblijven) at lunchtime. Children may also go home for lunch. However, most schools are closed from 12.00 or 12.30 onwards on Wednesday afternoons.
Leave of Absence from School
Other than on school holidays, daily school is compulsory for children over 5 years in the Netherlands, and special permission must be given if you are going to take your child out of school during the school year. You may be exempted in special circumstances, but usually only for ten days, and you must apply to the school administration for an exemption. If your profession makes it impossible to take the same holidays as your child’s school holidays, then again, you must get permission and your employer must provide proof of this.
There are two types of international or private schools. The first are normal private schools that are not funded by the government. The second type are called community schools and are a combination of private/public schooling, and as such, are partially funded by the Dutch government. Community schools have an emphasis on students connecting and integrating into Dutch society and your child will receive Dutch language classes to help them do so. Due to the fact that The Hague is a dynamic city with many international companies, there are a great number of international schools from which to choose.
International Schools in The Hague
• Lycee Francias Vincent van Gogh,
Children can start at the peuterspeelzaal, or nursery school, as early as 2.5 years of age. Inquire at the school of your choice for the exact rules and to be placed on the waiting list. Some nursery schools are a so-called voorschool, or preschool. At preschool special attention is given to learning the Dutch language.
Important Resources and Contact Details
The Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science
Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap. For all your questions about the Dutch school system: www.minocw.nl/english/index.html
Educaide advises parents, students, teachers, schools, and authorities in a wide range of issues pertaining to International and Bilingual Education in the Netherlands. Educaide is the professional Helpdesk for International and Bilingual Education in the Netherlands