Primary & Secondary Schools

In the Netherlands, education is compulsory from the age of 5 until the age of 16. This is called leerplicht. Normally children start their ‘educational route’ starting at kindergarten/day care, followed by 8 years of primary school and 4-6 years (depending on the chosen level) of secondary school.

Here we will explain a bit more about primary and secondary education in the Netherlands.

Dutch primary education

In Utrecht region you will find a generous selection of schools with a wide range of educational philosophies and practices. Children are truly put in the forefront here, supported to be competent, confident participants in the modern, connected, multi-disciplinary world we find ourselves in.

Taalschool Utrecht
The city council of Utrecht has decided that families who live in the city of Utrecht with non Dutch speaking children need to attend the Taalschool facility. All children from abroad in the age group 4 - 12 years old, who do not speak Dutch, go to Taalschool Utrecht before they can enroll in a regular Dutch primary school. 

Taalschool Utrecht has a strong focus on teaching children to use the Dutch language. In this way they prepare the children for the smoothest start possible at a regular Dutch primary school. Most children need about 1,5 years of Taalschool before they can transfer to a regular primary school. Next to learning Dutch, other subjects will be taught as well, so they will follow the normal Dutch education curriculum in accordance with their age. 

In the Netherlands, most children start primary school (basisschool) the day after their fourth birthday, with many children transitioning from Dutch childcare centres. Children are required to attend primary school after they turn 5 years old.

Primary schools consists of 8 grades (groepen), ranging from groep 1 (4 year olds) to groep 8 (12 year olds).

In the final year of Dutch primary school, parents, children and teachers decide together, with the help of a standardised national test (most frequently used is the CITO test), which type of secondary school is most appropriate.

Dutch schools are government funded and therefore free of charge. However, school may require a voluntary parental fee (ouderbijdrage). This does not count for private schools.

Dutch secondary education

After 8 years of primary school, children from age 12 usually start attending secondary school (middelbareschool). Thanks to the CITO test at primary school, the child gets an indication of the type of level they could attend, also depending on the child’s intersts.

There are four types of levels:

  • VMBO: Preparatory socondary  vocational education
    This is an education of 4 years, which leads to vocational training (MBO).
  • HAVO: Senior general secondary education.
    This is an education of 5 years, which prepares students to study higher professional education at a university of applied science, where they can follow a bacherlor’s degree (HBO).
  • VWO/Gymnasium: Pre-university education
    This is an education of 6 years, which focus on theoretical knowledge and leads students to a degree on a research university (WO).

Dutch schools are government funded and therefore free or charge. However, schools may require a voluntary parental fee (ouderbijdrage). This does not count for private schools. Clikc here for more information about the Dutch education system.

School holidays

In the Netherlands, school holidays differ per region (North, Central and South). To avoid a holiday rush, each region has its own vacation schedule. Utrecht Region belongs to the central region. Please note that the Dutch Government does not permit parents to take their children on vacation outside of the school holiday periods (exceptions apply). 

International schools