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Elementary and high school

Last updated: 2/1/2023, 11:40 AM

In the Netherlands, children up to age 16 and sometimes up to 18 have compulsory education: they have no choice but to go to school. They only do not have to attend school if they are ill. They can also request time off from school for special occasions (like Eid-al-Fitr).

Elementary school

Children ages 4 through 12 attend elementary school. The elementary school has 8 grades.

  • Grades 1 and 2 are the undefinedkindergarten classesundefined.

  • Starting in grade 3, children learn to read, write and do math.

  • In grade 8, all students must take a final test: the undefinedCitoundefined test. The result gives an estimate of the childundefineds level for high school. The teacher uses the results of the undefinedCitoundefined test when providing advice about which high school the child should attend. The high school adopts this advice.

Most elementary schools have special classes for children who do not yet know the language. Usually children go to such a special class first to learn the language. Then they are assigned to grades.

Transition class

Children older than 12 who have just arrived in the Netherlands usually first attend an international transition class (ISK) to learn Dutch. After about 1 year, they go to a regular class at a high school.

Unfortunately, not all children manage to enter a regular class before the age of 18. They skip high school and often go directly to study at the lowest class of intermediate vocational education (MBO). They then get their diploma here.

High school

After elementary school, children attend high school.

There are 4 levels in high school:

  1. Practical education: this level prepares students for work or further education. Students at this level receive few theory lessons, but mostly practical lessons. After practical education, you can usually start work immediately. You can also continue studying after this level.

  2. Preparatory intermediate vocational education (VMBO): this diploma allows you to go to intermediate vocational education (MBO).

  3. Higher general secondary education (HAVO): this diploma allows you to go to higher vocational education (HBO).

  4. Preparatory academic education (VWO): this diploma allows you to go to a university.

Costs of elementary and high school

Elementary and high school are paid for by the government. Some school supplies and travel must be paid for by parents for their child. Parents with a low income sometimes get discounts from schools or do not have to pay.