Eduction system explained
2 min

Education system in the Netherlands explained

2 min

Are you thinking about moving to the Netherlands with your family? If so, you'll need to know about the education system. The Dutch education system is known for its quality and affordability. This article provides an overview of the system, from preschool to university.

The Netherlands has a long history of providing quality education. The Dutch education system is based on the principle of equality of opportunity, and it is open to all students, regardless of their background.

The Dutch education system is divided into four main levels: preschool, primary school, secondary school, and higher education.

1. Preschool

Preschool in The Netherlands is intended for children age 4 to 12 in regular education. Although primary education can be followed from the age of 4, the child is only obliged to attend school from its 5th birthday. Preschool is a great way for children to learn social skills and prepare for primary school.

Kids writing in school book

2. Primary school

Primary school is compulsory in the Netherlands. Children attend primary school from the age of six to eleven. Primary school is divided into two cycles: the lower cycle (ages six to eight) and the upper cycle (ages nine to eleven).

In the lower cycle, children learn basic skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic. They also learn about the world around them, including science, history, and geography.

In the upper cycle, children continue to develop their basic skills and learn more advanced subjects, such as mathematics, science, and languages.

3. Secondary school

Secondary school is also compulsory in the Netherlands. Children attend secondary school from the age of twelve to sixteen. Secondary school is divided into three types:

  • VMBO is the most vocationally oriented type of secondary school. Students who attend VMBO typically go on to work after graduating.
  • HAVO is a more academic type of secondary school. Students who attend HAVO typically go on to university or a vocational college.
  • VWO is the most academically oriented type of secondary school. Students who attend VWO typically go on to university.

4. Higher education

Higher education is not compulsory in the Netherlands, but it is widely available. There are two main types of higher education:

  • University: Universities offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.
  • HBO institutes offer bachelor's and master's degrees. HBO degrees are typically more vocationally oriented than university degrees.

School system overview


The Dutch education system is also open to expats. Expats can enroll their children in Dutch schools, or they can choose to send their children to international schools.


International schools offer a curriculum that is based on the education system of another country. There are many international schools in the Netherlands, including schools that offer the British, American, and French curriculum.


The Dutch education system is a great option for expats who are looking for a quality education for their children. The system is affordable, and it offers a variety of options to meet the needs of all students. The Netherlands is also a great place to learn Dutch. There are many different language schools and programs available, so you can find one that meets your needs and budget.

If you are interested in learning more about the Dutch education system, you can visit the website of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. You can also contact the Dutch embassy or consulate in your country for more information.