In the Netherlands, education is obligated to children between 4 years old and 18 years old. Also, the education system in the Netherlands differs from most countries being split up in different branches and pathways. Read more about education and international schools in the Netherlands.
12 - 16/18 years old
In the Netherlands, secondary education is divided into several branches which prepare for tertiary education. These branches specialize in a certain degree of practical and/or theoretical learning.
Basisschool (primary school)
4 - 12 years old, 8 years long
A primary school has eight "groepen" (grades). During primary education students gain basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic. They will also start studying English by the time they reach Group 7, if not before then.
Schakelklas (transition class)
1 year long
A transition class is a class specialized in learning the Dutch language (and culture) in order for international students to be able to properly participate in the Dutch education system. Sometimes this done in specialized schools
Similar to primary school
The Netherlands also have alternative primary education to offer, such Montessori schools or so-called "vrije school" (Waldorf school) in which learning is often structured in a more creative way.
Voortgezet onderwijs or "middelbare school" is secondary education / "high school". In the Netherlands it is split in different levels, with up-/downscaling possible. Also, after finishing VMBO or HAVO, it is possible to enter the above level in the second to last year.
VMBO (preparatory vocational education)
12 - 16 years old
This type of secondary education, which encompasses 60% of the Dutch population, combines vocational training with theoretical education (mathematics, language, arts, history, science).
VMBO is divided into five pathways: VMBO-TL (theoretical oriented); VMBO-GL (mixed oriented); VMBO-KB (mixed oriented); VMBO-BB (vocational learning oriented); Praktijkonderwijs (practical learning oriented).
HAVO (senior general secondary education)
12 - 17 years old
HAVO is education which prepares for HBO level education (applied sciences). All students follow the same subjects: languages, history, mathematics, sciences and arts.
HAVO is divided into two phases, with the second phase starting in the fourth year. In the third year, students have to choose a profile which determines the focus of studies and subjects. There are four profiles to choose from: C&M (arts/social/languages); E&M (economics/social); N&G (biology/natural sciences); N&T (natural sciences)
VWO (university preparatory education)
12 - 18 years old
VWO prepares for University level education. It is similar to HAVO regarding subjects, phases and profiles, although slightly more difficult and challenging for students and one year longer.
Within VWO another branch exists named Gymnasium. In this branch, students learn Latin and historic Greek in the first phase and have the option to choose it in the second phase.
Vervolgonderwijs (tertiary education)
Vervolgonderwijs is the type of education following secondary education / high schools. The level is determined by the degree obtained during secondary education and tertiary education. For example, with a HAVO degree someone can apply for HBO, but also someone with a MBO4 degree can apply to HBO.
16+ years old, 1-4 years duration
MBO is the type of education that can be attended with at least a VMBO degree and is oriented at vocational training. Typically, two pathways are possible: school-based education (less than 60% training at companies) or apprenticeship education (more than 60% training at companies).
MBO is offered in 4 levels: MBO1 (assistant training, 1 year); MBO2 (basic vocational education, 2-3 years); MBO3 (more independently performed tasks, 3-4 years); MBO4 (middle management VET, 3-4 years).
17+ years old, 4 years duration
Requirement: HAVO, MBO4
HBO level education unique to the Netherlands as it provides a third option next to vocational training and university. HBO can be described as applied sciences and provides more practical learning than university education.
After finishing HBO, it is possible to do a master, however, a pre-master trajectory often is required.
18+ years old, 3-6+ years duration
Requirement: VWO, HBO (propaedeuse)
University education is split in bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. Students start with their bachelor then are able to do a master and/or Ph.D. Universities are theoretical oriented and in most cases teach students to become scientists/researchers.
HBO students can enter a bachelor (with a propaedeuse) or master (with an HBO degree).