Although perhaps you will be sending your child(ren) to an international school or so-called nationality-based school, we start of this article with a short description of the Dutch school system. One reason for this is that it is not strictly necessary to send your child to a non-Dutch school if you want the language of instruction to be English.
Several Dutch high schools offer a bilingual and / or English-language curriculum, and an IB-diploma, which qualifies graduates for entry into almost any university. For an overview of your options should you decide to send your children to a non-Dutch school, see International Schools (right column) and Preparing for University.
Primary education in the Netherlands
Children from age four through twelve go to primary school in the Netherlands. Primary education lasts eight years (including kindergarten), in the last year of which pupils are advised as to the type of secondary education they should pursue.This advice is based largely on the so-called CITO-toets, a sort of aptitude test that is applied by approximately 85% of the elementary schools, and the leerling-volgsystem (pupil monitoring system) which is used to register the achievements of the pupils during their entire elementary school time.
Secondary education in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, after a child has completed primary school, the parents and child together choose what type of secondary school the child will go to. This decision is based, in part, on the recommendation given by the primary school during the last year.
There are three types of secondary school they can choose from and they go by the following acronyms: VMBO, HAVO and VWO. All three start with a sort of "basic package" - adapted to the level of education - that usually lasts two years and consists of subjects that all students should, in principle, follow. At the end of the first of these two years (called the brugklas, or "bridge class"), a final decision is usually made as to which level of education the pupil is to follow during the rest of its secondary education.
International schools in the Netherlands
You have a choice between sending your children to a Dutch school or to an international school in the Netherlands. There are various ways for your children to get an international (or at least, bilingual) education in the Netherlands.
You can send your children to a(n):
- Nationality-based international school: in the Netherlands, you can choose between at least German, French, English, American, Iranian, Japanese, Polish, Indonesian and Korean.
- International school: there are several international schools that have a great variety of nationalities among the children. These schools offer the option of obtaining an IB-diploma.
- School with an "international stream": these schools have both a Dutch and a parallel international programme: this way, your child goes to the local Dutch school in your neighbourhood, where he or she follows an international programme.
- A dual-language school: an increasing number of Dutch secondary schools also offer TTO; tweetalig onderwijs, or dual-language education in which some of the courses are offered in Dutch and others in English.