How to choose a school in The Netherlands

A lot of you have been asking me how to choose a school or what to consider in terms of schooling when moving to the Netherlands. 

At a high level you have two options: an international school which will be in English and follow an international curriculum e.g. British, American or International Baccalaureate or a local Dutch school where everything be in Dutch (my kids are at the latter).

An international school may make sense if you don’t plan to be in the country long term and so don’t want your children to have to spend time learning the language or if they’re older and you feel this may be too big of a challenge for them.

Some things to consider if you choose an international school are:


  • The cost – this can range from around EUR6 000 for a government-subsidised international school to over EUR20 000 for a private international school following e.g. the British or American curriculum.
  • The student turnover – many students at international schools are there for a short period of time e.g. two years since there parents may be in a role that requires them to move regularly, which can make it hard to make friends.
  • Further education – if you plan to stay in the Netherlands long term it may be beneficial for your children to learn Dutch as some university or other courses are only offered in Dutch.

If you choose a Dutch school your children will, depending on their age, need to spend a bridging year in a newcomers or bridging class where they learn Dutch before rejoining their grade in the normal school environment. 

If your children are younger than four then they will start primary school on their fourth birthday, with daycare being available before then, often attached to the primary school..

In primary school there are various school types available e.g. Montessori, different religious schools all of which are government funded and so will only ask for a minimal contribution from the parents of approximately EUR100 per year or less.

Generally children attend a school relatively close to home which allows for more independence and for them to walk or cycle there themselves.

There is also afterschool care available in primary schools. You will need to pay separately for this but will be able to apply for a government allowance to offset some of the cost.

In high school there are different education streams that can be followed, some of which are oriented towards a more practical trade school type education and others which are preparation for university.

Some things to consider if you choose a Dutch school are:

  • The time taken to learn the language and the initial adjustment needed including that your child may need an extra year of study.
  • Whether you plan to stay in the Netherlands long term and for your children to study further here.

Overall the education in the Netherlands is regarded as being of a high standard and there are many different options available, both within the international and Dutch schooling systems.

Useful websites

You can find schools using this school finder – you just need to put in the postal code of where you’re living/will be living (Google can help with this).

You can also check out inspection reports from schools over here.

Do you have any questions?

Are you immigrating to or considering immigrating to The Netherlands? I can help guide you with info to get you started. If you’re interested in an information session, please email me here.

Feature image: Shutterstock

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