Your search for a school will begin with choosing between an international or a Dutch school, each of which have their own advantages. If you are planning to stay in the Netherlands for a short period, or if you plan to move on to another foreign country following your stay, an international school may provide your child with a sense of continuity. If you would like your child to experience the local culture and pick up the language, you may prefer a Dutch school.
Another important factor to consider is the difference in cost. Most 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 extra things. For international schools, a few are partly subsidised by the Dutch government, or by the country they are linked to, and the fees average €4,500 per annum. For a private international school, however, you pay at least €12,000 a year.
4 and 5-year-olds who don’t speak Dutch can usually start a regular primary school straight away. They usually pick up the language quickly and are (almost) fluent before the ‘real learning' starts at age 6.Ask the school about possibilities for extra language lessons for non-Dutch children.
Children aged 6 and older are usually required to follow a Dutch immersion programme first. This takes about one year, after which they can continue their education with children of the same age at a regular school. There is also an immersion program at secondary level for children aged 12-18, after which the 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 your child to go to an international secondary school instead.
In order to find a Dutch primary or secondary school, 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. Please find below a list of words that will be useful in your school search.
The 'Guide to Choosing a School 2020' provides a lot of detailed information about the options for primary education in Leiden. Visit the schools you are interested in on an ‘information morning’ (informatie-ochtend). Ask lots of questions, for example how much experience they have in teaching non-Dutch children. See also the extensive 'Checklist Basisschool'.
Visit several schools so you can get a feel for each school – it is a very personal decision. When deciding upon the school for your child, you determine to a large extent how they will learn academically and how they will grow emotionally, physically and socially.
In the Netherlands, there are four types of international schools:
government-funded Dutch schools with an international education department;
private international schools;
foreign national schools;
schools associated with embassies.
An international school follows either an international curriculum, or a curriculum that is in line with the educational system and legislation of a specific country other than the Netherlands. These schools are mainly attended by foreign children.