Will your child be attending secondary school in the Netherlands next school year? Then it is almost time to make a choice. Since this year, all students must register in the week before April 1st: we will help you make a choice.

In brief: what does secondary education in the Netherlands look like?

In the Netherlands, children are subject to compulsory education from the age of 5. They then go to primary school until group 8 (around the age of 12) and after that they choose a new school: secondary school. There, they can choose different types of schools and directions (levels):

  • Practical education
  • Vmbo: preparatory secondary vocational education
  • Havo: higher general secondary education
  • Vwo: preparatory scientific education

Which level best suits the pupil is determined on the basis of the school recommendation given by the primary school.

If you come from abroad and your child enters secondary school directly, you will not have a school recommendation from the primary school. The secondary school will then often ask for additional information so that the school can determine the best level for your child to enter. For example: school results from the current school, school results from when you still lived in the Netherlands (if there are any), results about the level of Dutch language skills and often a score on an intelligence test. Read on at the frequently asked questions. Is your question not among them? We are at your service.

If you master your language well, you can achieve much more than you think.
Jeanne Schriks
Jeanne Schriks | edufax
Remedial teaching | edufax

Relocate to the Netherlands with an educational report

For Dutch children who have lived abroad for several years or even all their life, it can be difficult to determine which level in the Dutch education system is the best fit for your child upon return. We offer specific in-person testing programs to help you find the right level. The output is an educational report that can be shared with the school in the Netherlands. Often such an educational report is required for the new school to assign the child to the right class and to provide the correct support.

Read more about educational testing

Terugkeren naar Nederland | edufax

Translation of school reports

In the current home country, your child will of course receive grades, assessments and reports from school. But how do these compare with Dutch standards and school systems? When you return to the Netherlands, it is interesting for the new school to know where your child stands. Is there a difference in the curriculum, for instance? Or are there subjects your child is less good at, or very good at? This way, the new school can properly determine what your child needs. For the translation of these school reports, Edufax is of course the right partner.

Translation School Report

When should we register our child?

In the week before 1 April, you should register your child at the secondary school. However, contact us earlier to discuss your situation with the school. Our advice is to start this at least six months before enrolment.

How do I choose a secondary school?

When choosing a school, it is important to determine which type and which level best suits your child. To do this, you need to take several factors into account, which our education advisers can help you with.

Once that is clear, you can start looking specifically at schools in your area:

  • Search and compare schools via scholenopdekaart.nl
  • Check the school guide and school plan: often available on the website. This contains everything about the education at that school.
  • Visit open days, which are often in January and February.
  • If you cannot make it to an open day: ask friends, family or former classmates to visit the school for you. Ask what they think.
  • In some situations, you can also make an appointment with the school via video call to get an impression of the atmosphere and the students.

What do the different levels mean?

Secondary education offers four levels:

Practical education

Practical education prepares pupils for work or an MBO course. On average, practical education lasts five years and usually ends when the pupil turns 18.

Find out more about practical education: Central government on secondary education

Vmbo (preparatory secondary vocational education)

Vmbo lasts four years and prepares pupils for an MBO course or for progression to havo. There are four different learning pathways:

Vmbo-b: basic vocational course
Vmbo-k: framework vocational programme
Vmbo-g: mixed learning programme
Vmbo-t: theoretical programme

Find out more about vmbo: Central government about VMBO

Havo (higher general secondary education)

The havo lasts five years and prepares pupils for a hbo education or transfer to vwo. The pupil first spends three years in the lower school and then chooses a profile for the upper school:

nature and technology (n&t);
nature and health (n&g);
economy and society (e&m);
culture and society (c&m).

Find out more about HAVO: Central government about HAVO

Vwo (preparatory university education)

The vwo lasts six years and prepares pupils for a university (wo) education. There are two options: athenaeum and gymnasium. The main difference between the two disciplines is that in grammar school, Greek and Latin are taught. In both programmes, pupils first follow a three-year undergraduate course and then choose a profile for the upper school:

nature and technology (n&t);
nature and health (n&g);
economy and society (e&m)
culture and society (c&m).

Find out more about VWO: Central government about VWO

Does my child need support?

Once your child returns to Dutch education, they may need support in specific subjects. We often see that due to curricular differences, it is nice for children to get help with homework or catching up in the beginning. Instructional language and specific subject language also often take some getting used to, as your child is used to the English language of instruction. Think, for example, of the language used in maths or physics.

At Edufax, we can help find suitable support: on-site or online, an intensive or short programme, or a summer programme in language or maths.

Does your child need specialist support? For example, because it is hearing-impaired, or has a disability, a disorder or behavioural problems. Then there are schools in the Netherlands that provide special education. To be admitted to these schools, you need an admission statement.

My child cannot speak Dutch, can he or she enter a Dutch school?

Does your child still have insufficient command of the Dutch language? Then they can start in the Netherlands in an International Switching Class (ISK) or language class. In these classes, pupils are immersed in the Dutch language. Once they master the language sufficiently, they move on to secondary education.

Should I opt for bilingual education?

Entering bilingual education can be a good option for students entering from abroad who have had English as a language of instruction. The teaching feels more familiar and students often feel more competent because they already have a good command of the English language.

It is important to bear in mind that students receive less Dutch-language education, but will eventually have to take final exams in Dutch for most subjects. So if your child’s Dutch is at a lower level because of a long stay abroad, it may be better to opt for full Dutch-speaking education. In addition, in some situations, the level of English proficiency is low among classmates. This may possibly be frustrating for a student who has mastered a very high level of English. The advice is to coordinate this with the school.

At several secondary schools, reinforced English is offered (e.g. Cambridge or Anglia English). This means that only the subject of English is offered at a higher level and so there is no bilingual education. At these schools, as at schools offering bilingual education, students can obtain an official certificate that can be used in tertiary education to demonstrate the level of English language skills.

Can my child enter in any year?

In principle, this is possible, but many schools do not allow pupils to enrol in the final year (the exam year). When enrolling from the fourth year onwards (when the examination programme starts), it is wise to check whether enrolling in regular Dutch education is a good choice. In some situations, parents then choose to have their child enrolled in international education.

If you want to know what the best choice is for your child, please contact our educational advisors.

I have no idea what type of school or level suits my child, what should I do?

Every situation and every child is unique. In order to give a good answer, we would like to hear more about your situation first. Contact us at support@edufax.nl, +31 (0)40 2047470 or via the contact form on our website. Our education experts, advisers and teachers are ready to help you.

Marcos Thijssen | edufax
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Want to know more about going to secondary school in the Netherlands?

Will your child attend secondary school in the Netherlands next school year? Questions about the right course or school? Edufax is at your service. Our teachers and consultants have years of experience and always know how to make the right translation. Need more information? Then feel free to contact us.

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