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The Education System in the Netherlands


Dutch law strictly enforces compulsory education for all children aged 5 to 18 residing in the Netherlands, regardless of their nationality. Primary schools are for children aged 4-12, thereafter students are “tracked” and steered into an appropriate educational direction according to ability and performance.


As of 1 August 2007, compulsory education has been extended to the age of 18, or any earlier moment that teenagers are qualified to enter the  labour market: with a HAVO or VWO diploma (secondary education) or an MBO level 2, 3 or 4 diploma (vocational secondary education).

Most Dutch children usually start primary school (basisschool) by the age of  four. The Dutch have a strong educational system, but as an expat you may wish to have your children attend an international school, of which there are several in The Hague. Either way, you will want to register your child in advance as MANY schools have a waiting list.  Younger siblings of pupils are given preferred status on waiting lists, so don’t forget to make that known if that’s the case.

Choosing a School

If you are already living in the Netherlands, then you can visit the school(s) of your choice. It is advisable to start looking at schools either in advance of your move to the Netherlands, or soon after your arrival. If you are choosing a Dutch school, check with your municipality for a list of primary schools in your neighbourhood. Whether you are looking at a private or public schooling for your child, you should make an appointment to talk with an administrator. It would be also be helpful to attend an information day (voorlichtingsdagen) at the school. Visiting the school and talking to staff will allow you to make an informed decision based on first hand experience. It is also wise to check with your colleagues, friends, and other expats for their advice and recommendations.

A lot of the government info is available in English. Click here for more information on education.
For more information on the performance of a particular school, click here (Dutch Inspectorate of Education).


You can choose to send your child to a neighbourhood school, or to a special education school (schools that follow particular pedagogical beliefs, such as Montessori, Steiner, or a school based on religious principals). In addition, there are specific schools for children with special needs or handicapped children and those children with behavioural problems.


Education is free for every child in the Netherlands, unless you choose a private school. A school can request a parental contribution (ouderbijdrage) to help fund school activities, outings, etc. Primary school children are given free swimming lessons (schoolzwemmen) – compulsory if given during school hours, unless there is a valid reason for your child not to attend these.

School Hours

Children attend school Monday to Friday from around 08.30 till 15.00. Lunch hour is from 12.00 to13.00. and the schools are obligated to provide school care (overblijven) at lunchtime. Children may also go home for lunch. However, most schools are closed from 12.00 or 12.30 onwards on Wednesday afternoons.

Leave of Absence from School

Other than on school holidays, daily school is compulsory for children over 5 years in the Netherlands, and special permission must be given if you are going to take your child out of school during the school year. You may be exempted in special circumstances, but usually only for ten days, and you must apply to the school administration for an exemption. If your profession makes it impossible to take the same holidays as your child’s school holidays, then again, you must get permission and your employer must provide proof of this.
The school will also notify the municipality if a child is often absent from school. Truant officers are employed by the municipality to check whether children are attending school regularly, especially before and after school vactions. It is your responsibility as a parent to make sure your child attends school. There are fines for parents, up to €50 per day, who keep their children out of school without exceptional circumstances. If your child has a reason to be absent you must keep the school informed.

International Schools

There are two types of international or private schools. The first are normal private schools that are not funded by the government.  The second type are called community schools and are a combination of private/public schooling, and as such, are partially funded by the Dutch government. Community schools have an emphasis on students connecting and integrating into Dutch society and your child will receive Dutch language classes to help them do so. Due to the fact that The Hague is a dynamic city with many international companies, there are a great number of international schools from which to choose.

International Schools in The Hague

•    Lycee Francias Vincent van Gogh
•    Deutsche Internationale Schule Den Haag, Van Bleiswijkstraat
•    The International School of The Hague, Kijkduin
•    Haagse School Vereeniging, Koningin Sophiestraat, The Hague
•    The American School of The Hague, Rijksstraatweg
•    The British School in the Netherlands, Voorschoten/ The Hague
•     European School of The Hague at the Rijnlands Lyceum, Voorburg (temporary office)
•     Lighthouse Special Education, Amalia van Solmsstraat, The Hague
•     Sekolah Kedutaan Republik Indonesia / Indonesian School in the Netherlands (SIN), Wassenaar
•     Szkola Polska (Polish School), Colijnplein, The Hague
•     The Ukranian School in The Hague ‘Veselka’, Vlaskamp (at BSN)
If you know of another international school, please inform us by using our contact form.

Other information

Children can start at the peuterspeelzaal, or nursery school, as early as 2.5 years of age. Inquire at the school of your choice for the exact rules and to be placed on the waiting list. Some nursery schools are a so-called voorschool, or preschool. At preschool special attention is given to learning the Dutch language.
Remember: The Dutch take truancy very seriously. Phone before school starts if your child is ill and you must request written permission if you need to take your child out of school for any length of time, or you could be fined by the municipality.

Important Resources and Contact Details

The Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science

Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap. For all your questions about the Dutch school system:
PO Box 16375, 2500 BJ Den Haag
Telephone: +31 70 308 1985


Educaide advises parents, students, teachers, schools, and authorities in a wide range of issues pertaining to International and Bilingual Education in the Netherlands. Educaide is the professional Helpdesk for International and Bilingual Education in the Netherlands.

PO Box 969 11, 2509 JH The Hague
Tel.:  +31 (06)5 598 8998
Fax: +31 (0)70 326 2252

National Reference Point Netherlands

The NRP is the contact point for those in search of information on vocational education in The Netherlands and other European countries. NRP Netherlands is part of the European network of NRPs. The objective of this network is to increase the transparency of national qualifications, which will promote the study and employment mobility within the EU.
There is a wealth of information here about secondary education options, which can be confusing and manyfold.

Other sites of interest

  • – Expatica lists international schools in its A-Z Listings.
  • – IAmsterdam information site offers articles on Education, from primary education to University
  • – Justlanded provides information, products and services to make survival easier for expats in the Netherlands.
  • – Access provides free information and advice via their helpdesk and personal consultation services.