- The Education System in the Netherlands
- Primary school
- Secondary school
- Compulsory education
- International or Dutch school?
- How to find a Dutch primary or secondary school
- Education in the Leiden region
- Where can I learn Dutch?
Generally, schools in the Netherlands offer high-quality education. The philosophy behind the Dutch education system reflects the mentality of the Dutch society as a whole and aims to encourage students to live and learn in an open-minded and creative manner. School is compulsory for children from age 5 to 16.
Education in the Netherlands consists of the following levels:
- Nursery School
- Primary Education (Basisschool)
- Secondary Education (VMBO, HAVO, VWO)
- Tertiary Education:
- Senior Secondary Vocational Education (MBO and company schools)
- Higher Vocational Education (HBO)
- University (Universiteit)
Every child can enrol in primary school from the age of four up. Enrolment in primary school is mandatory for children aged 5 and older. Leiden offers public/state owned (openbaar) and special primary education (religious or non-denominational). These schools are funded by the government and parents are only asked for contributions for extra activities.
There are different types of special education, including Roman Catholic, Protestant and Islamic, as well as schools that subscribe to a specific educational method, such as progressive 'free' schools. Special schools are not administered by the government; instead, they are run by a foundation or association.
The primary school curriculum has a broad spectrum which is divided over 8 groups (8 school years), and progress is monitored by standard testing. In the last year, group 8, children take a standard test (CITO-toets, only available in Dutch) that serves to indicate the level of secondary education which is regarded the most suitable for each child.
The school year starts in August and includes several holidays. The school week days normally run from 08.30-15.30 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and from 08.30-12.00 on Wednesday.
Once they leave primary school at the age of 11 to 12, children enter secondary education which generally continues till the age of 18. In the final year of primary school (group 8), the most appropriate type of secondary school is selected per child. Parents, children, and teachers decide this together, with the aid of standardized national tests (CITO-toets). All secondary schools start with a basic curriculum. Every student takes a wide variety of classes that are more or less the same regardless of which school they attend.
In the Netherlands, there are different levels in secondary education:
- Lower secondary professional education (Voorbereidend Middelbaar Beroepsonderwijs - VMBO). Children are prepared for a practical internship followed by employment or vocational education. A VMBO course generally takes 4 years.
- Senior general secondary education (Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs - HAVO) This course takes 5 years and prepares the child for Higher Vocational Education/college (HBO).
- Pre-university education (Voorbereidend Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs - VWO) This course takes 6 years and is the admission level for University.
Compulsory education in the Netherlands (leerplicht) applies to all children aged 5 to 16. It is required by law that these children attend school. Compulsory education ends at the end of the school year during which the child has turned 16. Due to this obligation, schools will not give parents permission to take children on holidays in the weeks out with the official school holiday periods.
Your search for a school will start with choosing between an international or a regular Dutch school, each of which have their own advantages. If you are planning to stay abroad for a short period, or if you will move on to another foreign country following your stay in the Netherlands, an international school may provide your child with a certain sense of continuity. If you would like your child to mix with the local culture, you may prefer to choose a regular Dutch school.
An international school follows a curriculum that is more in line with the educational system and legislation of a specific country other than the Netherlands. These schools are mainly attended by foreign children.
If your stay in the Netherlands is long-term, your children may attend the preparatory class (schakelklas). Non-Dutch children will be offered extra language lessons.
In order to find a Dutch primary or secondary school in your new town, the website of your municipality is probably a good place to start. Unfortunately, these websites are likely to be in Dutch only. Nonetheless, they will provide you with a list of schools in the region, as well as a list of useful terms that will help you in your search.
Leiden has a regional role in secondary education. The large number of secondary schools in Leiden represents a variety of backgrounds and approaches, offering students from Leiden and the surrounding areas plenty of choices. Many municipalities in the near vicinity of Leiden are home to several international schools:
- Leiden International Primary School
- The British School in the Netherlands (BSN)
- The Indonesian Embassy School in the Netherlands
- The American School of The Hague
- Het Rijnlands Lyceum International Secondary
- Haagsche Haagsche Schoolvereniging
International Primary Department
- The International School of The Hague
- Lighthouse Special Education
- Deutsche Schule (German School)
- Le Lycée Français Vincent van Gogh
Leiden offers a number of international study programmes, most of which are taught entirely in English.
The Leiden University is a so-called research-oriented university. Special attention is paid to excellent and internationally competitive research. Cooperation allows the university to gain expertise in a wide range of disciplines and academic fields, overstepping any boundaries. Interdisciplinary cooperation occurs not only between various research fields within the university but also with other research institutions, non-profit organizations, companies and the government.
Education is strongly connected to academic research. Consequently, Leiden University believes that a complete education comprises both a bachelor's and master's phase. In addition to one-year master's programmes, the school also offers challenging two-year research master’s degrees. These are designed to prepare the individual for pursuing a PhD.
The Leiden University consists of six faculties: Archaeology, Medicine, Law, Social Sciences, Science and Humanities (formerly known as the faculties Religious Studies, Arts, Creative and Performing Arts and Philosophy).
2311 GN Leiden
+ 31 (0)71 5278011
Webster University is an accredited American university with annexes in various countries including the Netherlands. Webster Leiden aims to enrich its students from around the world intellectually by offering them flexible, innovative and practical-minded education. In Leiden, Webster University's main building is located in the historic city centre.
Since 1983 Webster University in Leiden has been offering American bachelor's and master's programmes in four departments: Business and Management, Psychology and Social Sciences, International Relations and Media Communication.
Higher vocational education (HBO)
Leiden also offers many opportunities in higher vocational education. From chemistry to communication, nursing to computer science and practically all that lies in between.
One can choose from a wide range of study programmes in Education, Management and Business Studies, Technology and Health and Social Care.
Intermediate vocational education (MBO)
Intermediate vocational education prepares students for a wide range of careers, for example as a baker, a butcher, an environmental officer or a restorer. All programmes combine practical learning in the classroom with hands-on training. The amount of theory and practical training varies depending on the particular study programme.
The Academic Language Centre is affiliated with the university and offers both Dutch as a Second Language courses as well as a range of Foreign Language courses. All courses are open to students and non-students. There are day and evening group courses at all levels as well as tailor-made courses. Participants can often choose between intensive and less intensive course options. The Language Centre also offers acculturation and intercultural management courses. The Academic Language Centre is specialized in teaching language and culture to learners with a Higher Education background. Participants from varying age groups have learnt to appreciate its focus on practical application in diverse communicative settings, both private and professional.Last update: 08-01-2013