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A parents’ guide to education in the Netherlands

A parents’ guide to education in the Netherlands

Willemijn L. van Oppen-Stuyt gives the essentials on education in the Netherlands, from primary, secondary schooling, through higher education to teaching in the Netherlands with foreign credentials.

Reproduced here with kind permission from

Compulsory education under Dutch law applies to children of all nationalities from five to eighteen years who are resident in the Netherlands. International schools can be a good choice for the children of foreign parents who are staying temporarily in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, the majority of international schools are partly subsidised by the Dutch Ministry of Education and are thus bound by ministry rules, while others are privately operated.

In the Netherlands, the majority of international schools are partly subsidised by the Dutch Ministry of Education and are thus bound by ministry rules, while others are privately operated. The subsidy provided by the Dutch Ministry of Education makes it possible for these schools to offer English language education to the global standard of international schools for a reasonable fee. 


According to the Dutch Ministry of Education, students from the following backgrounds are eligible: 

  • A non-Dutch family staying in the Netherlands for a limited period of time with an expatriate status
  • An internationally mobile Dutch family, whose children have been largely educated abroad, and for whom an international education will be more advisable to ensure continuity.
  • A Dutch family bound for an international assignment, whose children will be switching from education in Dutch to English. 

In general, private international schools only have English language education, but the French, German, Japanese and Korean schools teach their national curricula in their native tongue.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, or confused, you can contact the following organisations: 

  • NUFFIC (Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education) in The Hague.
  • Mastersportal.
  • IB-Groep in Groningen.
  • Educaide, the Professional Helpdesk for International and Bilingual Education in the Netherlands 

Educaide advises parents, students,teachers, schools, institutions, companies and authorities in a wide range of issues pertaining to International and Bilingual Education in The Netherlands. Educaide, PO Box 96911, NL-2509, JH The Hague, The Netherlands. Tel: +31 (06)5 598 8998, Email: 


Primary education

Primary education starts at the age of four and continues up until the age of 11 or 12. Dutch International Primary Schools and the private regular international schools follow the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) or the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IBPYP). Private schools, such as the American School and the British School, use their national curricula.


Secondary education

During the first four to five years of secondary education, the Dutch International Secondary Schools prepare their students for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IBMYP) or the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE).


Secondary level vocational schools

If a student has successfully completed the IGCSE or IB-MYP, but is not admitted to the IBDiploma programme, then MBO (3-4 years) might be a good option. In The Netherlands, students can follow several programmes; for instance Business and Hospitality in the English language.


Higher education

Higher or tertiary education is offered at two different levels: vocational (HBO) and academic (WO).


Hogescholen or ‘professional universities’

After having obtained the IB Diploma (and in some cases the IGCSE Diploma or an MBO Diploma), students can enrol in the so-called ‘professional universities‘(HBO, or Hogeschool), which provide third level vocational education. Throughout the country many hogescholen or ’professional universities‘ offer programmes in English. Visit for more information.



Academic education or third level degree education (universiteit) is offered in Maastricht, Eindhoven, Tilburg, Nijmegen, Wageningen, Enschede, Groningen, Utrecht, Amsterdam (UvA, VU), Leiden, Delft, Rotterdam, and Middelburg. University programmes are organised around a bachelor’s or undergraduate phase of three years and a masters or graduate phase lasting one to two years.

Download the PDF version here.


Related Links:

Amsterdam International Community School

Getting into an MBA Program