Education System in the Netherlands


 EducationSchool/LevelGrade FromGrade ToAge FromAge ToYearsNotes
PrimaryBasisonderwijs (Primary School)  4128 
SecondaryVoortgezet onderwijs- High School (Continued Education)  12   
SecondaryVoorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs_ preparatory middle-level applied education  12164 
SecondaryHAVO (five years) and VWO (six years)  12186The HAVO diploma is the minimum requirement for admission to HBO (universities of professional education). The last two years of HAVO and the last three years of VWO are referred to as the second phase (tweede fase), or upper secondary education.
SecondaryHAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs, literally, "higher general continued education")  12165 
SecondaryVAVO (voortgezet algemeen volwassenen Onderwijs, literally, "prolonged general adult education"      
VocationalVocational      
TertiaryTertiary      

Primary Education

In the Netherlands a quality education system is focused on the needs of the individual child. Culture is accommodated through public, religious and general-special neutral schools, and there are private ones too. Following optional kindergarten, pupils ages between 4 and 5 enter their elementary schooling period of 8 years that equates to primary / middle school education. The first two years are more like play school. From grade 3 onwards though they learn to read, write and do sums. In grade 4 they are aptitude tested to gain an indication of the secondary education stream they may follow. Many schools introduce English in grades 7 and 8, and most have adopted some or other educational philosophy such as MontessoriPestalozzi or Freinet.

Secondary Education

Students then proceed directly to high school where they will follow one of several education models according to their aptititudes and the inclination of their parents. In all instances the first year forms a bridging period during which the students adapt to accepting more responsibility for themselves. 
  • Vmbo (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) combines vocational education with academic subjects over a period of 4 years. Within this model there are several subdivisions ranging from preparation for leadership positions through to entirely practical training aimed at immediate job market compatibility.
  • Havo (hoger algemeenh voortgezet onderwijs) has 5 grades aimed at promoting suitability for polytechnic tertiary education.
  • Vwo (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs) spans 6 years in total and is in theory sufficient qualification to enter university (although some institutions apply additional criteria too). Within this model there are further specializations such accenting classical languages, or developing artistic skills.
In these ways the people of the Netherlands apply a philosophy of quality education for all inscribed in law in 1815.

Vocational Education

Secondary education does end there in the Netherlands though. There is almost a superfluity of vocational training colleges catering for every taste. Moreover, adults of any age are entitled to attend Vavo (Voortgezet algemeen volwassenen onderwijs) adult schools where they may complete any form of secondary education that they missed for whatever reason.

Tertiary Education

Netherlands EducationSimilarly there are three different forms of tertiary education too. Practically orientated students with their Vmbo may attend vocational training for further 4 years. Those withHavo's may attend a university for professional education in a specific field. 

Those with their Vwo gain access to research universities where a hierarchy of bachelors, masters and phd opportunities await. The oldest research university in the Netherlands is Leiden University. It was established in 1575 and is regarded as an exemplary hub of knowledge well respected for its many fine faculties.

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