The Brainport region offers excellent facilities for children. The International School Eindhoven(ISE) has a large, newly renovated woodland campus which houses both Primary and Secondary departments. The ISE serves the expatriate community and Dutch families arriving or moving overseas. It provides support for families and a high standard of education for children and aims to create a strong international community. Besides the ISE, many Dutch primary and secondary schools offer parts of their curriculum in English.
In the Netherlands, Primary education (basisonderwijs in Dutch) may begin at the age of four, but is mandatory from a child's fifth birthday
Primary education in the Netherlands comprises general primary education, special primary education and (advanced) special education for children with learning and behavioural difficulties and children with learning disabilities. Public and private Primary schools (basisscholen) educate all children from age four to approximately 12 years old, thus there are eight years of primary schooling. Children are placed in 'Group 1' upon entry, and move up a group every year. In their last year, ‘Group 8’, children in 85 percent of primary schools sit the CITO test, which is used to help advise their level of Secondary education. The government sets attainment targets in six curriculum areas: Dutch; English; arithmetic and mathematics; social and environmental studies; creative expression and sports and movement.
The Dutch primary school system operates entirely on free choice of which school to choose for your child, and there are no ‘standard’ state-run schools. They all operate according to their own educational philosophies (some have religious affiliations as well), within state-established parameters and are inspected regularly by the State. There is a broad choice of schools and quality is high.
The school year starts in August and includes several holidays throughout the year. The school week is normally from 08:30-15:30 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; and from 08:30-12:00 on Wednesday.
Increasingly primary schools are becoming aware that part of the curriculum should ideally be taught in English. However, at the moment, not all primary schools are equipped for educating international children. Consult the website of each primary school for more information.
It is advised to register your child as soon as possible at the school of your choice, and as young as the school allows. Public schools are technically not allowed to refuse admission, unless they are full. However, popular schools have waiting lists and the municipality can assign catchment areas based on postcodes. All schools have brochures and websites where they announce upcoming Open Days when you can visit the school.
Secondary education (voortgezet onderwijs in Dutch) starts after completion of primary education, usually at the age of 12, and generally continues to the age of 18. Children are obliged to go to school until the school year in which they become 16. The most appropriate type of Secondary school for a child is selected in their final year of primary school by means of CITO test scores and input from parents, children and teachers.
There are 3 levels of secondary education:
- VMBO prepares pupils for vocational secondary education. Those who achieve the highest level (theoretische leerweg) can enter HAVO studies. VMBO generally takes 4 years, depending on the subjects chosen.
- HAVO takes 5 years and prepares pupils for studies at a University of Applied Sciences or College.
- VWO prepares students for a university education and is the admission level for Research Universities. VWO takes 6 years.
In the first years of secondary education, all pupils study the same subjects (to different academic levels), followed by a second stage in which students choose a specialist profile.
Primary and secondary state education is free, with parents being asked to contribute a ‘voluntary’ nominal amount, which varies from school to school. Additional (optional) payments include school trips, lunchtime supervision and after-school care, which the school might provide themselves or sub-contract.
Local or international school?
Your financial situation, location, nationality, the age of your children, and how long you are likely to stay in the Brainport region are the main factors you should consider when selecting a school. Many companies reimburse international school fees as part of a relocation package, and reimbursement could be exempt from income tax (though not for all schools). While teenagers might appreciate the educational and social continuity provided by an international school, younger children might get a greater sense of belonging by attending a local school if you plan to stay for a while. By learning good Dutch they will connect to their new world more easily.
Children under five years old
In the Netherlands many working parents take their pre-school children to a day care center. These centers either have groups with children in all ages from 0 to 4 years (vertical groups) or groups per age (horizontal groups). Most day care centers are open from 07:30 or 08:00 till 18:00 or 18:30. There are often waiting lists, so be sure to register in good time.
For more information on facilities for younger children, click here.