There are many different kinds of international schools in the Netherlands. So, how do you differentiate between them, and how do you decide which one would best suit your children? We will run through the different educational programs each type of school offers, on this page. Some forms of international education will give your kids a better chance of getting into University. Others are designed to train them for a specific vocation. Read on to find out which one is right for your kids.
Education Options in NL
Before we get started, there is another matter to consider: Are you sure you want to send your kids to an international school? It might be worth reading up on Schooling for expat kids in the Netherlands. This should help you to decide whether Local or International school would be a better fit for your offspring.
International Schools in NL: The basics
- Both ‘private international schools’ and ‘subsidized international schools’ exist in the Netherlands
- Only subsidized international schools are classified as ‘Dutch International Schools’, or ‘DIS’
- DIS are found throughout the Netherlands
- An international curriculum is taught at these schools, in English
- Dutch International Schools are part of the Dutch schooling system. Thus, they must abide by the rules set out by the Dutch Ministry of Education
- Other international schools, and foreign national schools, are privately operated
The Cost of International Education
- You can send your children to a DIS for a relatively low, but mandatory, fee
- The subsidy provided by the Dutch Ministry of Education makes it possible for these schools to offer a good quality international education at a reasonable price
- A primary DIS will charge around €3,500 to €6,500 a year
- Secondary schools might charge €5,500 to €8,000 a year
- Parents might be charged extra fees for events like projects or field trips
- These fees are, unfortunately, non-negotiable
- Prices at private international schools can be as much as € 20,000 a year
Qualifications for Admission
The qualifications for admission to a Dutch international school are set by the Dutch Ministry of Education. The following pupils may be admitted to these schools:
- Children from a non-Dutch family, with expatriate status, who will be staying in the Netherlands for a limited period of time only
- Kids from an internationally mobile Dutch family, who have largely been educated abroad. It is advisable for these children to pursue DIS education, because they will feel more at home in an international environment
- Children with Dutch nationality, whose parents or legal guardians are due to be stationed abroad within two years and for at least two years
International School Curricula
Different types of schools in the Netherlands offer different curricula. Who teaches what?
- In general, Dutch schools and private International schools only offer English-language education
- ‘Foreign National Schools’, teach their own national curricula in their native tongue. French, German, Indonesian and Japanese schools are all examples of Foreign International Schools
- American and British schools also teach their own national diploma programs. However, they offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program to students in their final two years of education as well
- The British School in Amsterdam is an exception, and only offers A-levels
Primary International Education in NL
How does primary international education work in the Netherlands?
- For children in the Netherlands, Primary education starts at the age of 4
- It continues until children reach 11 or 12 years of age
- Dutch International Primary Schools and private international primary schools might use the ‘International Primary Curriculum‘
- This is referred to as the ‘IPC’
- Equally, these schools might teach the ‘International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program‘, which is referred to as the ‘IBPYP’
- For children with special educational needs, there is a school called the ‘Lighthouse Special Education school‘ in The Hague
Secondary International Education in NL
International Secondary School: The Early Years
During the first four to five years of international secondary education, Dutch international secondary schools prepare their students for either:
a) ‘The International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program‘, or the ‘IBMYP’
b) ‘The International General Certificate of Secondary Education‘, or the ‘IGCSE’
- The IGCSE is the globally recognized equivalent of the British GCSE
- Students are encouraged to take at least four (I)GCSE subjects, and to complete them with marks ranging from A*-C
- If they also take a GCE in two subjects at AS level, the Dutch Ministry of Education will accept that they have attained a qualification equivalent to that of the Dutch HAVO
Students who have achieved this qualification are given an entry ticket to a ‘Dutch University of Applied Sciences’
International Secondary School: The Final Years
What happens once students have completed the first part of international secondary education?
- Students who have successfully completed the IBMYP or the IGCSE can be admitted to the two-year ‘International Baccalaureate Diploma Program’
- This is abbreviated to the ‘IBDP’
- The IB-diploma is widely recognized
- It is intended to provide students with a well-balanced pre-university education
- It is an accepted entrance qualification for top universities around the world
Many expatriate children take this educational path in their final two years of secondary school. However, not all do. There are different programs on offer at different types of school in the Netherlands:
Different Schools, Different Programs
1. Foreign National Schools
- Private ‘Foreign national schools’ may teach their pupils a different curriculum at both junior and senior level
- The American Schools in Wassenaar and Rotterdam, as well as the British School in the Hague also offer students the option of following the IBDP, in their final two years of high school
2. Vocational Schools
What happens if a student has successfully completed the IGCSE or the IBMYP, but is not admitted to the IB-Diploma Program? They will be encouraged to take either the ‘MBO‘ or the ‘IBCP‘. Let us explain:
- ‘MBO’ stands for ‘middelbaar beroepsonderwijs‘. This literally translates as: ‘Middle-Level Applied Education’
- An MBO offers students 3-4 years of vocational training
- Students can take several English-language programs in, for instance, Business and Hospitality studies
- With an ‘MBO-4 diploma’ a student can be admitted to a University of Applied Sciences (an HBO)
- The IB Organization has developed a new curriculum for students in their final two years of high school, called the ‘IBCP’
- This stands for the ‘International Baccalaureate Career-Related Program’
- It is an alternative to the IBDP
- It offers secondary general and vocational education
- The Dutch authorities have declared that the diploma is comparable to at least a Dutch ‘HAVO-diploma’, with vocational subjects
- The IBCP incorporates the IB-principles in a program created for students who want to focus on career-related learning
- This is intended to provide them with both an academic and a practical educational foundation
- The British School in the Netherlands offers the IBCP
- This makes them the first, and so far the only, school in the Netherlands to offer this program
- ISUtrecht hopes to introduce the program soon
3. The European Baccalaureate
- Students take the ‘EB’ at the end of their seventh year of secondary education
- The EB is not the same as the International Baccalaureate, or the various other national Baccalaureates
- It supports a rounded knowledge of all subjects
- In order to take the EB, students must have strong skills in at least two languages. This will enable them to specialize in individual fields
European Schools in NL
- The European School in Bergen is also accessible to children whose parents are not employed by the European Union
- In order for students who do not work for the EU to attend, they must pay just below €5,000 for their primary education and € 6,700 for secondary education
Bilingual education in NL
‘Bilingual Education‘ began in the Netherlands in 2014. Twelve Dutch Primary Schools joined a national pilot, and began offering it as a course. Several more schools have since joined them. In Dutch, Bilingual education is called: ‘Tweetalig Onderwijs’, or ‘TTO’. This is how it works:
- Pupils are taught in English 30- 50% of the time
- Some of the courses, however, are offered in Dutch
- Hence, in order for children to take TTO in the Netherlands, they need to have a near-native mastery of the Dutch language. Their English must also be of a very high standard
- The TTO education pilot will last until 2019
- An increasing number of Dutch Secondary Schools are offering TTO
Most of the schools that offer TTO will award their students one of the following forms of qualification upon their graduation:
Preparing for University in NL
Many children who come from expat families living in the Netherlands consider going to University abroad. If this is something your kids aspire to do, there are measures you can take to help them get accepted:
- Find out whether there are any national schools, of the country in which your child wishes to attend University, in the Netherlands
- Sending them there might make them a more appealing candidate for a University in said country
- Most foreign Universities will have their own set of entry requirements
- They will vary, depending on whether your kid has a Dutch VWO diploma, the IB diploma, or the EB diploma
- Specific Universities might have a preference about which of these qualifications they would like to see
- A university may have fewer additional requirements for a pupil who has a particular type of secondary school diploma
- So, if you can, find out what the University’s preferred diploma is, and try to get your child into a school that offers it
Picking the Right School
If there are no schools that offer the national program of the country who’s University your child wishes to apply to, or if you are going to be moving another country later on, it can be very difficult to decide where to send your children to school. So, what is the answer?
- We advise you to look for a school that offers the IB-Diploma Program
- Almost all universities accept the IB-diploma
- The IB-program is offered at all international schools in the Netherlands, as well as at the American Schools of The Hague and Rotterdam and the British School in the Netherlands
- You can find an overview of the schools that offer the IB-program on
- It is a program with a lot of variety that is intended to give your child a well-rounded education
- If yours and your kids’ future is uncertain, the IB is a safe option
Get the Ball Rolling!
1. All of this planning will, of course, have to be done before your child starts their final two years of high school. Therefore, we encourage you to start looking in to your options as early as possible!
2. There are so many different types of international and nationality-based schools in the Netherlands, each with their own merits. We therefore advise you to contact your local international schools directly, and request further information on the programs they offer. This way, you can help your offspring decide on a course of international education that suits their individual aspirations
International school Fees and Taxes
How much do these various forms of international education actually cost?
- International school fees vary considerably, from one school to another, in the Netherlands
- In order to obtain information on these fees, we recommend that you contact the schools you are considering directly
- Many companies pay or reimburse the tuition fees of their expat employees, who have children
- These payments and reimbursements are often exempt from income tax
- There is something called the ‘30%-reimbursement ruling‘ in NL, under which most tuition fees are deductible
- To be brought entirely up-to-date on this issue, we advise you to contact your tax consultant. Tuition fees and taxes are a complicated issue!
International School Waiting Lists
Many schools, be they Dutch or International, will have waiting lists. Therefore, we strongly advise you to register your child at the school of your liking as far in advance as possible!
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