Primary Schools Struggle with Influx of Expat Children

7 January 2019

Dutch primary schools expect an increase in expat children in the coming years. While companies rapidly employ technicians and ICT workers, schools have to find a solution for the increasing arrival of children.

Photo by Hollandse Hoogte/Kees van de Veen

This can be quite a challenge: they do not speak Dutch (and sometimes also do not speak English), they arrive throughout the year and it is unclear how long they will stay. This is particularly relevant for schools in Eindhoven, The Hague and around Amsterdam.

In Eindhoven, primary schools are preparing for an influx of foreign students (coming mostly from Asia). It is expected that the number of knowledge worker kids will increase by more than half by 2030, reaching almost four thousand students. "It is moving very fast now", says Geert Simons, director of the Reigerlaan primary school. "In the final year of primary school, all pupils are still Dutch, whereas a third of pre-schoolers and half of all toddlers are international.” Simons is also the chairman of the committee that deals with internationalization for the 22 schools in the koepel Salto.

Waiting Lists

Expats no longer automatically opt for an international school for their children. “The needs have changed”, says Simons. Formerly, international employees stayed for two to three years, and high international school costs were paid by the employer. Due to the fast growth of international employees, this is no longer always the case.

"A stay abroad may just take the entire primary school period," says a municipality spokesperson of Amstelveen – a city where a lot of Japanese and Indian highly skilled migrants take residence. There are long waiting lists for international schools, influencing the choice for public education.

Language Classes

There are no national statistics on the amount of knowledge migrant students. However, by 2020, more than 1,500 international students will be enrolled in public Dutch schools in Amstelveen alone, according to Frans Cornet, director of Amstelwijs, a school foundation recently mentioned in the professional journal Naar School! “We are trying to find a good solution for the influx. This remains difficult. Many children come here with very little knowledge of the Dutch language”, says the municipal spokesman.

Because these are mostly children of highly educated parents, the central government does not receive extra money to provide language teaching and switching classes. In those cases, the municipality must assist.

A new international kindergarten class is starting today in Eindhoven. It is a new concept Simon’s school is experimenting with. “We work according to the international school curriculum, but with a lot of attention for the Dutch language, culture and history”, he says. The class exists especially for children whose parents aren’t sure how long they will stay in the Netherlands, but he also wants Dutch students to take part. "These parents are also interested." If people are pleased, a second school will start an international class after the summer.


More Than 50,000 Highly Skilled Migrants

More than fifteen thousand knowledge migrants have moved to the Netherlands in the past thirteen years, according to the Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum (WODC) – the Scientific Research and Documentation Center.

Highly skilled migrants are highly educated employees who come tot he Netherlands with an arrangement. 40 percent of this group comes from India.

Eindhoven had more than 2600 Indians last year, and only about 1100 five years earlier. The number of Chinese doubled in that same time period.

In the metropolitan region of Amsterdam, which includes Amstelveen and places in the Gooi region and the Zaan district, more than 20,000 migrants came from Asian countries such as China, Japan and India in the past decades, according to municipal figures. These are partly families with children.

By Gerrit-Jan KleinJan and Petra Vissers

Read the original article by Trouw in Dutch: